Fresno Slammed for Stalling on Plan to Rename Racist Ballpark Named After KKK Leader John Euless

Estimated read time 9 min read

A major city in California—marred by its history with the Ku Klux Klan—has stalled its efforts to change the title of a park that was named after an early 20th century white supremacist.

Nearly four years after Fresno City Council passed a resolution to rename the John Euless Ballpark and review and potentially rename other city landmarks with associations to “cultural or historic figure[s] known to be racist or bigoted,” the park is still associated with the name of a man instrumental in bringing the Klan to California.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Fresno City College Public Information Officer Kathy Bonilla and Director of Marketing and Communications Cris Monahan-Bremer said signage bearing Euless’ name had been taken down but that renaming the park hasn’t been “a priority.”

“We took effort to remove [Euless’] name from the ballpark. In 2020, we removed his name; we started calling it ‘The Ballpark.’ We simplified it,” Bonilla said. “So, we removed his name in 2020 for all areas: the ballpark itself and the signage, our campus map, any references to the ballpark on our web event calendars, or roster programs, any of that.

“Now, I understand that we were remiss in not doing this quickly,” she added. “There were some maps in display cases that still says the name Euless on it. … We have new maps; we were just slow in changing those old ones out. They’re now in the process of doing that.”

The Daily Beast found multiple examples of signage on maps where Euless’ name remains associated with the ballpark.

The John Euless Ballpark name still appears on maps.

The John Euless Ballpark name still appears on maps.


Bonilla said a new name would be given to the park this spring. When asked what the name would be, she said it was “going to be a surprise.” However, she promised that there will be fanfare and a ceremony to celebrate.

“It will be the name of someone who has been closely associated with our baseball program,” Bonilla said.

Fresno native and Binghamton history doctoral candidate Geoffrey Ramirez said the name-changing process shouldn’t be that much of a hassle.

“I think part of the reason why [the city doesn’t] want to delve too deeply into this history is [that] a lot of those [Klan members’] …families are still around and they probably don’t want historians picking through their skeletons in the closet,” he said. “It’s probably an open secret within the family and they kind of just want to leave it.”

Though Bonilla said that Euless’ name was dropped from the baseball park, she did admit that a complete overhaul and name change was not the school’s top concern during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are in the process of renaming the ballpark. The other problem during this whole time is COVID hit, and so that really kind of delayed things. And right now, we’ve been so concentrated on increasing our enrollment to bring it back to pre-COVID level that really, putting a name on that ballpark was not necessarily a priority right now. That’s why we call it ‘The Ballpark.’”

Ties to white supremacy were rediscovered within Fresno—routinely the location of the Miss California pageant for the Miss America Organizationin Sept. 2020 by The Fresno Bee columnist Marek Warszawski.

“John Euless, namesake of Fresno City College’s Euless Park… a 1922 newspaper article identified (Euless) as a leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Fresno,” Warszawski wrote in the editorial. “Reading that, my eyeballs nearly popped out of their sockets. Fresno City’s baseball facility, and former home to minor-league baseball from the early 1940s to the late 1980s, is named for a KKK leader?”

Warszawski continued that he found a newspaper from 1922 that included a list of Klansmen’s names—including Euless—which was “seized by police during a raid… and released to the media by authority of the Fresno County district attorney.”

According to government records, Euless was born and raised in Bedford County, Tennessee, just an hour outside Pulaski, the birthplace of the Klan. In 1906, he moved to Fresno, California, and worked in insurance and as a farmer and real estate investor.

Photo illustration of a portrait of John Euless

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Public Domain

As an undergraduate student in a research seminar at San Francisco State University in 2017, Ramirez looked into Euless’ connection to the Klan.

“Euless existed as a rather prominent figure in Fresno history,” Ramirez wrote in the 2017 essay. “Euless had also been a member of the Fresno County Chamber of Commerce, the Farm Bureau, a member of the Elks Lodge and Odd Fellows. Euless was not a man who existed on the fringes of society. He was a respected businessman with ties to the agrarian elite.”

The Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame claims Euless was “the right man at the right time with the right connections.” In 1941, the association claims Euless brought baseball to Fresno after getting financial support from his friends to build a baseball park.

However, Fresnoland reporter Kristina Mansfield said the field already existed and was used for Klan ceremonies.

“The baseball field is still named after one of the charter members of the Fresno KKK,” Mansfield said in an interview with The Daily Beast, providing a 1925 photograph of a Klan initiation ceremony on a baseball field.

Mansfield said Euless just built a park around the field, and it was renamed in Euless’ honor after he died.

Mansfield provided a printed image of Euless’ Klan application that appeared in a 1922 issue of the Fresno Morning Republican, which was reviewed by The Daily Beast.

“His Majesty, the Imperial Wizard, Emperor of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the KU KLUX KLAN (Inc.); I, the undersigned, a native born and true citizen of the United States of America, being a white male Gentile of temperate habits, sound in mind, and a believer in the tenets of the Christian religion, the maintenance of White Supremacy, the practice of an honorable clanishness [sic] and the principles of a ‘pure Americanism,’ do voluntarily most respectfully, seriously and unselfishly petition you for citizenship in the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and be a CHARTER MEMBER of a Klan,” Euless’ name was signed, along with his address and real estate occupation.

John Euless’ name appears in an article about the KKK

John Euless’ name appears in an article about the KKK.


“I guarantee on my honor to conform strictly to all rules and requirements regulating my ‘naturalization’ and the continuance of my membership, and at all times a strict and loyal obedience to your constitutional authority and the constitution and laws, and all regulations and usages of the fraternity.”

A Los Angeles Times article from 1922 also indicated that Euless was a member.

The Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame did not answer The Daily Beast’s questions regarding Euless’ association with the Klan.

“Part of the reason why people don’t want to talk about this history is because it’s still very alive to them in some way or another,” Ramirez told The Daily Beast.

In September 2020 after talk involving Euless Ballpark was reignited, then-Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria proposed a plan that would prevent city landmarks, buildings, and facilities from being named after controversial historical figures, according to the Fresno-based news site GV Wire.

“We don’t really have a process in place currently. So, we thought that it would be great for our historic commission to review it, study, and then make a recommendation to the council,” said Soria at the time when much of the U.S. was undergoing a racial reckoning after the death of George Floyd. “We want to make sure that we are on the right track to ensure that we are not naming any facilities in the future behind any one that is racist or bigoted.”

The resolution passed among the city council on Oct. 15.

“The City Administration shall compile a list of the name of all City facilities, and provide the list to the Chairperson of the Historic Preservation Commission within 10 days of the effective date of this Resolution,” the resolution read.

During a Historical Preservation Commission meeting on Oct. 16, 2020, the group discussed landmarks that were to be removed, and acknowledged that the Euless Ballpark was named after a “KKK member locally from the ‘20s.”

John Euless Ballpark is not the only location in Fresno that has been of concern due to its questionable namesake.

In her interview with The Daily Beast, Mansfield also referenced Fresno’s historic Meux Home, named after a Confederate soldier from Tennessee who was also allegedly instrumental in bringing the Klan to California.

A KKK meeting is held at a ballpark

A KKK meeting is held at a ballpark.


A virtual attendee to the Historic Preservation Commission meeting brought up additional names. He said Irwin Avenue in the city was named after a trustee—dentist Dr. Lester Irwin—who was also a Klansman, and that Shaw Avenue was in honor of alleged corrupted former Police Chief William Shaw. Shaw came from Indiana, which, during the revival of the Klan in the 1920s, was the largest hub for the white supremacist organization.

“[Shaw] was known for discrimination, and it’s documented in the newspapers of the time,” the attendee stated.

The commission said they needed to come up with a plan on how to review “about a couple dozen facilities” in question within 60 days for the city council. They also talked about bringing the issue to the state level as a sort of “peer review” process, how renaming buildings may be easier than renaming parks or streets, and if it would be possible to bring in outside expert voices to help assist with the decision-making.

“Inaction is going to be perceived as much as action,” Historical Preservation Commission Chair Patrick Boyd said.

Nonetheless, the baseball park still has remnants of John Euless four years later, and a Fresno City communications director told The Daily Beast that anything involving the ballpark would fall under the responsibility of the Fresno City College.

Bonilla and Monahan-Bremer said the City of Fresno had no control over the baseball park because it is property of Fresno City College, which inherited the area after acquiring it from Fresno State University in 1959. However, they said Fresno City College put together a task force in 2020 to brainstorm new names for the park. That task force included members of the college community, Fresno residents, and historical society members.

Though Soria was monumental in the initiative to rename the park, she declined to comment about the renaming process.