Madison in the Sixties – August, 1967
The summer of 67 sizzles with what the Equal Opportunities Commission calls “tension-filled incidents with racial overtones.” Black families living around Odana Road and Tokay Blvd, have their homes and cars vandalized. Fights between white and Black students near East High, with the conflict and hostility spreading to Central High as well. Whites are openly hostile to a Black family moving into the Monroe Street area. A white woman pickets the new home of a Black family in Sherman Village.[i]
Trying to tamp down tensions, and gain some understanding into police/community relations, the EOC holds a series hearings in neighborhoods with large minority populations.
On August 2, about 150 east side residents, about twenty of them black, attend an emotional hearing at Marquette School. They tell commissioners and Mayor Otto Festge of race-based police brutality and bias by the department which they pointedly note remains all white.
The next day, the police department adds what it calls a “correction” to the help wanted ad already running in daily newspapers – declaring for the first time the department to be an “Equal Opportunity Employer.”
That night, another large crowd tells similar stories about the police on the south side at Abraham Lincoln School. Mayor Festge rejects calls for a civilian review board of police actions, saying that’s already a function of the Police and Fire Commission.[ii] .[iii]
On August 4, the police response, from inspector Herman Thomas, MPD’s second in command, and the six policemen who patrol the South Madison and Williamson Street areas. They all tell the commissioners that they have never hassled or hurt any black residents. “I’m amazed at the small number of incidents and the ease with which we can communicate with the colored people,” says South Madison patrolman Gerald Eastman.
There had been press reports of outside agitators coming to Madison to provoke a riot, but everyone downplays the possibility of violence, and none occurs.[iv]
A few days later, the civil rights focus turns to the public schools, as superintendent Douglas Ritchie tells the school board he wants what he calls a “cosmopolitan staff embracing all nationalities and races,” while admitting the district still doesn’t have as many Black teachers and staff as are needed. But there appears to be some slight progress – according to a federally mandated survey, thirteen of Madison’s 1,623 instructional staff are black, up from nine in 1966. Ritchie says the biggest problem is a lack of Black applicants, as most graduates of historically black colleges and universities prefer to work in minority districts in the south. And Madison remains an overwhelmingly white school district, with only 512 Blacks among its 34,000 pupils That’s about 1.5 %, with sixteen of the fifty-four schools having no black pupils. The schools with the highest number of Black pupils ae Franklin Elementary (101), Central High (50), Marquette Elementary (49), and Lincoln Junior High (48)..[v]
And an unusual number with implications for the schools, regarding the census of children residing in the district – for the first time since 1947, there are fewer Madisonians under the age of 21 than last year. 344 fewer residents to be precise, the figure now set at 58,184.
Here’s another number – 69,485. That’s how many registered voters Madison had as August began. But many are soon to find “you snooze, you lose,” as City Clerk Edwin Hoel begins removing 18,691 delinquent voters from the registration lists. All it takes to be held a delinquent voter is not voting in any election over a two-year period. Not all the voters stricken were delinquent, as some had surely moved away. But don’t fear for democracy in Madison – Hoel expects about 20,000 new registrants for next April’s presidential primary and municipal elections.
And at the end of the month, Superintendent Ritchie pivots from civil rights to protest, when five Madison teachers are arrested for handing out antiwar leaflets outside the new Dane County Memorial Coliseum during a teacher convention. They’re charged with unauthorized use of the Dane County Fairgrounds, but are quickly released on order of district attorney James Boll when Ritchie gives permission for the distribution.[vi]
The Coliseum is also the site this month of a pop and rock concert that has 6,000 teeny-boppers screaming and a number of parents a bit alarmed. The screams are for the headliners, Herman’s Hermits; the alarm is over the explosive, instrument-destroying finale of one of the supporting acts – the Who, fresh from their recent success at the Monterey Pop festival, ripping through a set that includes Summertime Blues and My Generation. The two acts take different tacks toward the same subject – Herman croons “Mrs. Brown, “You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter,” while the Who perform their new single “Pictures of Lily,” about a pin-up girl that helps the singer sleep at night.
Urban renewal moves ahead in South Madison, as the council unanimously approves a $2.7 million program for Bram’s Addition, fifteen blocks over seventy-two-acres, bounded by Wingra Creek on the north, Buick Street on the south, S. Park St on the west and the Northwestern Railroad on the East. Unlike the Triangle urban renewal project of the early sixties, the South Madison program does not clear the entire area, but rehabilitates 155 of the 221 substandard structures, knocking down the remaining 66. It will also reconstruct several streets to Madison standards, and improve Penn Park. The local share for the project is $700,000, with the Madison Redevelopment Authority spending another $322,000 to buy the land where the 66 houses once stood, to be sold for new construction.
Police Chief Wilbur Emery and Fire Chief Ralph McGraw now have higher salaries than Mayor Otto Festge, thanks to the new pay plan for Madison’s police and firemen. Even though the chiefs aren’t in the police or fire unions, they get the same percentage increase – which under the current contract meant they each got a raise of more than sixteen hundred dollars. Their annual pay of $17,567 is 567 dollars more than the city pays its mayor. The aforementioned superintendent Douglas Ritchie remains the highest-paid municipal employee, at $22,000
Leading the business wire this month, the J.C. Penney company announces it has bought a 104-acre tract on E. Washington Ave. past Highway 51 where it will develop a regional shopping center. The land – which the city will soon annex from the Town of Burke — was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Albert Niebuhr; his family had owned the farmland since 1898.
And two young men of Madison die in Vietnam this month.
Army Specialist 4-C Vernon J. Stich, a twenty-one-year old heavy truck driver, is killed in a vehicle crash in Cam Rahn Bay on August 7. Stich, whose father Vernon lives at 3112 Atwood Ave., arrived in Vietnam about ten weeks earlier.[vii]
Army Corporal Mark W. Neuman, twenty, West High 1965, a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division, is killed while on patrol on August 25. The Madison native joined the Army in March 1966 and was sent to Vietnam that September, and recently volunteered for six months’ extra duty in country.[viii] Neuman’s father, Master Sergeant Willard F. Neuman, 1833 Baker ave., is the supervisor of Army recruiting in Wisconsin,
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, sacrifice-honoring listener-supported WORT News team, I’m Stu Levitan.
[i] Report and Recommendations, Madison Equal Opportunities Commission, Dec. 1967; John T. Aehl, “Rights Unit List 18 Racial Conflict Cases,” WSJ, March 29, 1968.
[ii] Aehl, “Marquette, South Side Residents to Be Heard,” WSJ, August 1, 1967; Brautigam, “Marquette Area Racial Efforts Assured of Support,” CT, August 3, 1967; Brautigam, “Negroes Complain of City Landlord’s ‘Solid Front,’” CT, August 4, 1967.
[iii] John Stumreiter, “Madison Police Recruit Ad Pledges No Race or Creed Discrimination,” CT, August 12, 1967.
[iv] Coyle, “Rumors of Madison Riot Prove False, Police Say,” CT, August 5, 1967; Coyle, “Negroes Expect No Violence Here,” CT, August 7, 1967.
[v] Brautigam, “City Wants Teachers from Many Races,” CT, August 8, 1967; Pommer, “Schools Have 13 Negro Teachers, 512 Negro Pupils,” CT, December 18, 1967.
[vi] Pommer, “Arrest Teachers for War Protest,” CT, August 31, 1967.
[vii] “Ex-Madisonian Killed in Viet Nam,” WSJ, August 11, 1967; www.virtualwall.org/ds/StichVG01a.htm.
[viii] “City Man Is Killed on Extra Viet Duty,” WSJ, August 29, 1967; www.virtualwall.org/dn/NeumannMW01a.htm.