by Sharon Davies
Remembering the 1921 slaying of Father James E. Coyle
[From Columbia, the magazine of the Knights of Columbus.]
Father James E. Coyle, an extraordinary priest and Knight of Columbus in the early 20th century, courageously stood up against widely-held anti-Catholic views at the risk, and then cost, of his life.
The Irish-born priest was scarcely in his 20s when, after his ordination in Rome, he was dispatched to Alabama to begin his priesthood. The Catholic population in Alabama had exploded with a promise of jobs, especially in and around Birmingham’s network of coal mines, steel mills and iron foundries. Father Coyle arrived in the city shortly before a wave of anti-Catholicism flooded the country, and the revived Ku Klux Klan (KKK) rebranded itself as a “patriotic” fraternity, targeting blacks, Catholics, Jews and foreigners.
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