Madison in the Sixties – April, 1967
Mayor Otto Festge won his first term in 1965 by eight thousand votes. But crime and taxes are both up, college students are causing trouble, the building trades are on strike, and everything feels like it’s breaking down. So this election night April fourth, he’s ahead by only about thirty votes with just one precinct left to report.
Festge, forty- six, almost got to run unopposed, but attorney and former broadcast personality William Dyke enters the race just hours before the January 31 deadline.142 The 35-yo, who finished third in the seven- way primary two years ago, campaigns almost exclusively on Festge’s spending, taxes, and purported failures of leadership, and avoids culture and crime.143 A former aide to GOP lieutenant governor Jack Olson, Dyke enjoys active support of local and state Republican officials, while the Dane County Democratic Party doesn’t even endorse Festge, even though he had been elected county clerk six times as a Democrat. At least the Madison Federation of Labor’s Committee on Political Education endorses the incumbent.144 Festge cites as his primary accomplishment the recent acquisition of a site on Milwaukee Street for the long- sought east side hospital, making progress on the Monona Basin auditorium and civic center, and forming the Alliance of Cities to lobby for better state shared revenue. And he notes that most of the tax hike has been for the schools, not city services.1 Festge runs moderately well throughout the city; Dyke wins fewer wards but by larger margins, especially his Nakoma neighborhood. It all comes down to University Heights, a precinct with a thousand votes. About 10 p.m., the last numbers come in: Festge 511, Dyke 474. Festge gets his second term by just seventy- five votes— reduced to sixty- two after a recount, 17,261 to 17,199. He’s in for another term – which will be even rougher than his first.
Festge’s planning department continues its work on the Atwood Avenue business district, issuing a bleak report in April on its “depressing, unexciting appearance . . . that is unplanned, inconvenient, unattractive . . . a commercial district of old, deteriorating structures” and skyrocketing vacancies. City consultants Midwest Planning and Research Inc., find most of the buildings are in poor or fair condition, and a “declining community spirit, especially among the young people living and working in the area, evidenced by a lack of local focus” on neighborhood problems. Their seventy- two- page solution is a private urban renewal plan, starting with a forty- thousand- square foot shopping center featuring a full- service supermarket and chain drugstore on the lakeside corner of Atwood Avenue and Winnebago Street. In order to provide a more pedestrian- friendly environment by diverting cars from Schenk’s Corners, the consultants propose a new road aligned with the railroad tracks, from First Street to Division Street. The report also says the venerable East Side Businessmen’s Association has become “too diffused to be effective” in promoting the area’s revitalization and recommends a new nonprofit corporation be created to acquire and redevelop properties.
Lots going on on campus. On the first, grad student Paul Soglin’s resignation from the WSA Student Senate takes effect, as he leaves to work on campus- community relations through the new University Community Action party.
April 2— Legendary bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie brings his quintet to the Union Theater for two shows.
April 3— The faculty approve a new visitation plan allowing each residence hall living unit to decide by a two- thirds vote whether to allow visitors of the opposite sex in their rooms between noon and 10 p.m. on either Saturday or Sunday. Visitations are voided if the living unit serves beer at a social function before or during the visitation period. House officers will be responsible for enforcing the requirement that doors “must be left ajar” during visits.197
April 8— The Student Peace Center presents the largest Anti- Military Ball yet, featuring satirical skits and music by Ben Sidran and Johnny Kalb.
April 11–12— A coalition led by SDS, United Community Action (UCA), and Committee to End the War in Viet Nam (CEWV) conducts an orderly rally and picketing of CIA recruitment interviews at the Law School. About 150 students, mostly young women, sit in without obstructing, while up to eight hundred rally on Bascom Hill. About fifty students interview with the agency, although some, like former SDS leader Marty Tandler— who lists another SDS officer as a reference— are not actually seeking employment.
April 4— Ruth B. Doyle, project assistant for the dean of student affairs focusing on recruitment and support of black students, and wife of federal judge James E. Doyle, is easily reelected to her second three- year term on the board. Herbert Marcus, whom Mayor Festge appointed to the board last October when attorney Richard Cates resigned, also wins a full term.
April 20— Superintendent Robert Gilberts, who succeeded Philip Falk in January 1963, accepts appointment as the superintendent of the Denver public school system. On July 5, the school board votes, 4–3, to name West High School principal Douglas S. Ritchie superintendent. Doyle, who cast the only vote against Ritchie’s appointment as principal in 1964, leads the opposition, saying Madison is too big to be a starter district for a first-time superintendent.238
On April 12, rock and roll makes its first appearance at the new Dane County Coliseum,, with Paul Revere and the Raiders perform as the headliners.
And April is indeed the cruelest month, as two Madison families mourn soldier sons killed in Vietnam.
On the 14th, Army Private First Class James Clifcorn, twenty- two, Edgewood Academy class of 1962, is fatally shot while serving with the First Cavalry Division in the An Lo Valley. Clifcorn was three months shy of graduating from Maryknoll Seminary and entering the priesthood when he dropped out to join the Army and go to Vietnam.
And Army Specialist 4- C Leonard D. Thompson, twenty- one, 42 Wirth Ct., is killed when his tank battalion is ambushed in Quang Tri province on April 25. A member of Plymouth Congregational Church, he worked at Sub- Zero before entering the Army shortly after his graduation from East High in 1965; he had served in Vietnam for about six months.
And that’s this week’s MITS. For our award-winning, listener-supported WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan.
Illustration – the proposed private urban renewal plan for Schenk’s Corners.