Madison in the Sixties. Civil Rights, 1969
It was in 1966 that the Equal Opportunities Commission proposed that the city someday require all private clubs applying for a liquor license to certify their membership policies “contain no requirements for invidious discrimination,” namely bias based on race, creed, color, national origin or ancestry. The Commission recommended the bias ban should take effect sometime after 1969. The council agreed, adopted the report, and told the commission to get back to it in three years.
So this March the EOC opens an inquiry to see if any of Madison’s fourteen private clubs with liquor licenses still have national charters limiting membership to Caucasians. The same three clubs that did in 1966— the Eagles, Elks, and Moose— still do.
At least Madison Elks Lodge 410 is trying to change; in late March, more than 250 members vote almost unanimously for a resolution calling on its national Grand Lodge to eliminate the “white males” provision. The Grand Lodge refuses to do so.
In mid- May, the EOC reaffirms its long- held position that the council should “deny any and all privileges granted by the city” to organizations practicing invidious discrimination. And it proposes two new restrictions — that elected and appointed city officials “should not belong” to such clubs or use their facilities for city meetings, functions, or parties.
But the council doesn’t entirely like the commission’s report, and sends it back, with the “suggestion” that it recommend a five- year grace period, and not take effect until the summer of ‘74. The commission responds that the clubs have already had three years to eliminate the discriminatory provisions, and offers June 1970 as the effective date. The commission isn’t unanimous; one of its aldermanic members, Robert Dries, says the EOC QUOTE “shouldn’t make a crusade of the issue.”
At a council meeting on June 10, a past state officer of the Loyal Order of Moose gives an emphatic but counterproductive defense of the club’s whites- only provision, which he ends by inviting to the club “those of you who are qualified to go,” namely persons “of Caucasian blood” who are not married to a person of another race. African Americans Ald. Eugene Parks, sitting directly in front of Moose attorney Willis Donley, and EOC executive director Reverend James Wright, who is sitting a few rows back, are not amused.218
As with every civil rights measures this decade, council opposition to the EOC report is led by south side Ald. and painters union leader Harold “Babe” Rohr. He declares that the three clubs “probably do more for minority groups than the minority groups do for themselves,” and suggests the ordinance is “calling thousands of good Christian people racists.” Mayor William Dyke disagrees, saying it’s “absolutely appropriate” to set a deadline.
Two weeks later, the council does, adopting the full EOC recommendations, 17-4. But only after voting 12-10, to delay until 1971 the ban on liquor licenses and membership by city personnel in race-based clubs. The ban on city meetings and activities in the clubs is effective immediately. “It’s the classic example of the liberalism that supports racial equality, but not enough to do something definite, today,” says Ald. Parks.
That August, the national convention of the Eagles votes by about 4–1 to retain the “whites-only” provision.
And these dateline items:
March 18— Ald. Alicia Ashman, joined by National Organization for Women cofounder Dr. Kathryn Clarenbach, reports that several city ordinances discriminate against women, from employment to banking. “Even in Madison,” she says, “unwed mothers employed by the city are ineligible for maternity benefits.” Ashman and Clarenbach propose amending the Equal Opportunities Ordinance to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex or age; the commission agrees to draft the amendment.
March 29 – Someone burns a four- foot- high wooden cross on the front lawn of the westside home of one of Madison’s leading Black families, Prof. James and Bettye Latimer, 3922 Hillcrest Dr. Three days later, three west side teenage boys, ages thirteen to fifteen, apologize to Prof. and Mrs. Latimer, explaining they had “nothing else to do” and had no malicious intent. The Latimers accept their apology
Both the country’s most successful team athlete and its most important young leader come to town on May 20.
Fred Hampton, the charismatic 20-yo chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, tells an enthusiastic overflow crowd in 6210 Social Sciences that class struggle is a more pressing problem than racism. “We must fight white capitalism not with black capitalism but with black socialism,” he says to a standing ovation. “If you love the people, you love revolution,” he added. “And if you love revolution, you love socialism.”
Bill Russell, 35-yo player- coach of the Boston Celtics, and ten-time world champion, talks race and politics and answers questions for about two hours in a Panhellenic Council event for nearly two hundred white students at the First Congregational Church. He condemns the US Olympic Committee and its president, Avery Brundage, as racist and celebrates the protest by sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico City Olympics last summer: “It’s hep what those guys did with the black gloves and all.”
August 4— Mary Louise Symon, former chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), and others announce the formation of Citizens for Civic Peace, formed to press the Madison Police Department to integrate the force through new recruitment and training policies. “These are not normal times and we cannot rely on normal procedures,” says Madison Urban League president Hilton E. Hanna.
August 11— Madison Area Technical College names south Madison native Richard Harris, director of the South Madison Neighborhood Center, instructor in sociology and director of recruiting and counseling for disadvantaged students.
September 18— Air Force Sergeant Johnny E. Winston, twenty- one, recently returned from Vietnam, is certified by the Police and Fire Commission as the first black member of the 226- member police department. Currently an air policeman at the Tyndall base in Panama City, Florida, Winston enlisted shortly after graduating from high school in South Bend, Indiana. During a two- year posting at Truax Field, he married Mona Adams, 15 Lakeshore Ct.; they have a year- old son, John Jr. Sergeant Winston is scheduled for discharge next June but may be released early to start his new job.204
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, mask-wearing, hand-washing, socially distant WORT News team, I’m Stu Levitan.
Support for this podcast is provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.