Madison in the Sixties – April, 1962
Henry Reynolds was elected mayor in April 1961 on platform of killing the Frank Lloyd Wright Monona Terrace project, which had been authorized by referendum in 1954. So Reynolds drafts and pushes through the council a referendum to reverse that earlier vote – to formally reject the Law Park location overlooking Lake Monona, and start the process of picking a new site. On April third, the referendum passes with about 54 percent of the vote. As an added bonus for Reynolds, three pro- Terrace alders are defeated (although over local issues, not Monona Terrace), giving the city a government unified against anti–Monona Terrace. The mayor moves fast, calling a meeting of the Auditorium Committee three days after the vote to start the process of formally terminating the contract which former mayor Ivan Nestingen and Mr. Wright signed in 1956. And when the new council convenes on April 17, Reynolds presses his advantage. He does not reappoint the leading pro-project alder, north sider Richard Kopp, and stacks the panel with three aldermanic opponents. The next day, the fervently pro-Monona Terrace Capital Times expresses its outrage. “A dictator takes over in city hall [and] asserts he has been given a mandate to suspend minority rights,” it editorializes, denouncing Reynolds’s refusal to reappoint Kopp as “a display of petulance and anger.”14
The Auditorium Committee isn’t the only place Reynolds flexes his mayoral muscle. He also shakes up the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights, by not reappointing its chair, attorney and NAACP president Lloyd Barbee, a Nestigen appointee. The commission elects as its new leader the pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church Rev. Richard Pritchard.
Election day also brings good referendum news to the school board, as voters adopt by 4 to one a 4-year $9.3 million bond package, the largest in city history. Most will be spent on the far east side, including $4.4 million for the 2400 students in the area Madison just annexed from Blooming Grove, and $3.1 million for the newly named Robert M. La Follette High School. The sixth successful bond referendum since the end of World War II, it is approved by a substantial majority in all thirty- three voting precincts. But there’s a limit to how many buildings the board will boost; it endorses the recommendation from Superintendent Phillip Falk not to remodel or renovate the 1908 Central High School, which they project will stay open for at least another ten years. “I don’t think we can justify large expenditures in an area of decreasing populations,” Falk tells the board. He also proposes moving the board offices from the old Doty School, 351 W. Wilson St., into the Washington School, 545 W. Dayton St.128
On UW campus, the great violinist Isaac Stern performs outstanding programs at sold- out Union Theater shows on the first and second. And while he’s performing the second show, Over in Great Hall, Black Muslim Minister Malcolm X is extolling Black nationalism to a group of about 500. Great Hall is also the site for Duke Ellington and his fifteen- piece orchestra to headline the Military Ball on the fifth and the Student Peace Center’s Anti-Military Ball on the sixth.
On the eleventh, the Daily Cardinal, now led by 19-year-old Jeff Greenfield – the paper’s first sophomore editor-in-chief in its 70-year history – demands that the government explain exactly what we’re doing in South Vietnam, and why. “It is pretty clear by now,” the paper editorializes, “that the American effort in South Viet Nam is of a far more serious nature than has been indicated by our government. The administration has in effect thrown American military might into South Viet Nam without consulting and without informing the American people or their representatives.”100
Two days later, the UW Board of Visitors reports to the regents that it has examined the Daily Cardinal and “noted a number of instances of a low standard of taste and an equally low concept of good citizenship.”101
On April 12, a strike by about 120 truck drivers shuts down $120 million in construction for almost a month, as members of Teamsters Local 695, strike fifteen ready- mix concrete and building supply firms for higher wages and benefits. As picket lines go up at Findorff and other general contractors, work stops on the Hilldale Shopping Center, the Van Vleck Mathematics Building, and an addition to Madison General Hospital. From a starting hourly wage of $2.65, the union seeks a sixty- six- cent increase over a three-year period, the employers offer fifty. At Governor Gaylord Nelson’s request, UW law professor Nathan S. Feinsinger mediates a settlement which provides a raise of fifty-six cents.
The same night the strike starts, the city council unanimously adopts creates a work relief ordinance, requiring all able- bodied relief recipients to work on city- supervised projects or take vocational training in order to receive relief. The $1.47 hourly wage is set at 80 percent of the city’s lowest pay classification, and is payable in vouchers for food and housing, not cash. The ordinance also creates a seven- member Board of Public Welfare in control of the program.
And the council also adopts the first official city flag, designed by two young members of the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps, Rick and Dennis Stone, and sewn by their mother, Frances. It consists of two blue triangles representing Lakes Mendota and Monona, a stripe of white running from lower left to upper right to represent the isthmus, and the sacred sun symbol of the Zia Pueblo nation emblazoned in gold on a black background to represent the state capitol. After its approval, the flag hangs upside down in the council chambers for over three years, until city attorney Edwin Conrad notices the mistake and corrects it.163
At the end of the month, the council finally settles a long- standing debate over where to locate the new central library, voting 12–7 for the 200 block of West Mifflin Street. The Library Board wanted a site in the 200 block of West Washington Avenue across from the YMCA but the land was too expensive. The Parking Utility has been pressing the library board to leave its building on North Carroll street across from the vocational school, so it can expand the municipal parking ramp there.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, listener-supported WORT News team, I’m Stu Levitan.
Photo of City Attorney Edwin Conrad unfurling the city flag for administrative assistant Robert Corcoran courtesy Capital Newspaper Archives.