Dem Senate candidate, Anheuser-Busch heiress, once crowned queen in whites-only pageant

Today, she is running for Missouri’s Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate, but back in 1977, the Anheuser-Busch brewery heiress Trudy Busch Valentine was being crowned the “Queen of Love and Beauty” in a controversial, whites-only pageant.

The Veiled Prophet Organization and its annual Veiled Prophet Ball have been a source of St. Louis, MO, mystery and scandal since its founding in 1878 by former Confederate cavalryman turned grain executive Charles Slayback, who wished to create a secret society that would “blend the pomp and ritual of a New Orleans Mardi Gras with the symbolism used by the Irish poet Thomas Moore,” The Atlantic reported in an article from 2014.

“From Moore’s poetry, Slayback and the St. Louis elite created the myth of the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, a mystic traveler who inexplicably decided to make St. Louis his base of operations,” The Atlantic wrote.

Shrouded in secrecy, Slayback and his group of St. Louis elites would hold a vote and choose a member to anonymously assume the role of the Veiled Prophet and select a “Queen of Love and Beauty” from those in attendance at the exclusive ball. The Queen would then be presented with an expensive trinket, such as a jewel-encrusted tiara or a string of pearls.

“Often these gifts were so expensive that they became family heirlooms,” The Atlantic stated.

More than 50,000 people attended the first parade in October 1878.

And so it was, one hundred years later, that Trudy Busch Valentine found herself favored by the Veiled Prophet, who, according to tradition, remained  “hidden beneath a white cloth resembling the hoods worn by Ku Klux Klan members,” according to a report Wednesday from The Intercept.

You see, the Veiled Prophet organization wasn’t just known for excess and rituals — it was widely known for its racism.

In 1977, when Busch Valentine was crowned, Blacks and Jews weren’t allowed to join, and it would have been nearly impossible for Valentine to not know about it.

“In 1972, five years prior to Busch’s crowning, activist Gena Scott entered the ball and unmasked the ‘veiled prophet’; Scott’s car was later bombed, and her house was vandalized,” The Intercept reports. “One of the protesters in 1977 was arrested for using a ‘disabling chemical spray’ at the affair the year prior. And at Busch’s crowing, ‘There were extensive and extraordinary security measures,’ an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said.”

But according to Busch Valentine, she just didn’t realize how bad car bombings and racist, exclusionary policies were back then — not when she was crowned, and not during her two subsequent appearances at the ball, once in 1979 and once again in 1990, despite decades of protests against the organization by human rights activists.

“I believe in the importance of working together and healing divisions — and that starts with acknowledging my own past shortcomings,” said Busch Valentine in a statement to The Intercept. “I failed to fully grasp the situation. I should have known better, and I deeply regret and I apologize that my actions hurt others.”

“My life and work are way beyond that, and as a candidate for Missouri’s next U.S. Senator, I pledge to work tirelessly to be a force for progress in healing the racial divisions of our country,” she continued.

Busch Valentine isn’t the only former queen who has had to apologize for her crown.

Last year, the organization’s shady past was thrust into the national spotlight when it was revealed that Missouri girl, actress Ellie Kemper of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” fame was selected as the “Queen of Love and Beauty” in 1999. Like Busch Valentine, Kemper released a lengthy apology, stating she didn’t know about the organization’s ugly past, “though the Klan-like regalia, including Grand Wizard-looking costumes, should have been a tipoff,” The Intercept notes.

Busch Valentine announced her bid for the seat of retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) on Monday, and immediately received the endorsement of former Democratic state Sen. Scott Sifton who announced he was dropping out of the race due, at least in part, to his difficulty in securing financial support for his campaign.

“With Busch Valentine, the Missouri Democratic Party will get a high-net donor and insider, one who hosted a fundraiser for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016 at her family estate,” according to The Intercept.

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