Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 782
Ramsey (Ramsey-Eyes) Washington Blankenship
Ramsey (Ramsey-Eyes) Washington Blankenship, the elderly black custodian of the Cattleman’s Hotel. He is an obliging, amiable widower who finds the mumbo jumbo of the Knights of the White Magnolia more amusing than threatening. At seventy-five years of age, he is set in his ways and content with his simple life. He lacks racial bitterness, despite the fact that the Knights, excepting Colonel Kinkaid, treat him with contempt. Although slow and shuffling, he is not the ignorant and illiterate fool they take him to be. In the breakup of the last meeting of the Knights, it is Ramsey-Eyes who remains serenely dignified and triumphant.
Rufe Phelps, a refinery worker. Like most of the Knights, he is narrowly provincial, low-class, and poorly educated. At fifty-five years of age, married but childless, he values the socializing and sense of tradition afforded by the organization. He and Olin Potts, friendly enemies, wage a continual verbal battle. They enter arguing over horseshoes and set the mood for the eventual brawl and collapse of the order. Rufe is also the sponsor of Lonnie Roy McNeil, whose prospective membership infuriates Colonel Kinkaid and adds to the bickering.
Olin Potts, a cotton farmer. Like Rufe, and one year older, he is married but childless. Besides entering into spirited arguments with Rufe, he serves as the group’s genealogist. He is able to outline the lineage of nearly anyone in Bradleyville, Texas, but is abysmally misinformed about world events. He and Rufe exit as they entered, arguing over trivial things.
Red Grover, the owner of Red’s Place, a small bar and package store. Although a longtime resident of Bradleyville, he remains an outsider, having come from Mississippi. At the age of forty-eight, he is a cynical, bitter bachelor who finds little good in anything. Habitually sarcastic and abrasive, he is arrogant toward Ramsey-Eyes, but his special target is the alcoholic Skip Hampton, whom he despises. The hostility between the two finally erupts into physical violence, ensuring the demise of the chapter.
L. D. Alexander
L. D. Alexander, a supermarket manager and Imperial Wizard of the Knights. Married, with a small family, at forty-nine years of age he has achieved nominal middle-class status. A firm believer in white supremacy, he has the most at stake in keeping the fraternal order united, but all of his efforts to maintain decorum and soothe ruffled egos fail. In the end, even he must face the inevitable.
Colonel J. C. Kinkaid
Colonel J. C. Kinkaid, the owner of the Cattleman’s Hotel and a retired U.S. Army officer. At the age of seventy-five, he is an invalid confined to a wheelchair. World War I wounds and shell shock have contributed to his mental disorientation, making him seem hopelessly senile. He endlessly reminisces about his military experiences and often seems unable to relate to current realities. There remain in him vestiges of dignity and honor lacking in the others, and he provides the group a degree of respectability. Although gruff and cantankerous, he is kind to Ramsey-Eyes and values him as a loyal servant, unlike Red Grover, who uses Ramsey-Eyes as a scapegoat. The strain of the bickering and verbal abuse take their toll on him, and his lapse into a comatose state forces the play’s climax.
Skip Hampton, a service station attendant. At thirty-one years of age, he already is the town lush. A Korean War veteran who never saw action except in his alcohol-fueled imagination, he seems to resent Colonel Kinkaid, a certified hero; however, he is more pathetic than mean. His alcoholism makes him whine and plead, which infuriates Red Grover. Their disruptive behavior climaxes when Skip attacks Red with what appears to be a knife and Red smashes him in the stomach with a whiskey bottle.
Lonnie Roy McNeil
Lonnie Roy McNeil, a pipe fitter and candidate for membership in the Knights. Friendly and eager to join, he is both naïve and simpleminded, a very young twenty-one. After surviving the ordeal of initiation, when all propriety is lost and the meeting begins to turn into a free-for-all, he panics and bolts, never to be seen again.
Milo Crawford, a feed store clerk. At twenty-six years of age, he is shackled to a domineering and demanding mother who is jealous of anything that threatens her hold over him. Because he is very thin-skinned and defensive about his situation, he is a natural target for the barbs of Red Grover and the rest. In the fray that ends the meeting, even L. D. Alexander insults Milo’s mother, sending him off in an indignant huff.