Madison in the Sixties – February, 1962
With no progress coming on state or federal efforts for a strong civil rights bill, Attorney Lloyd Barbee, the former president of the Madison NAACP now leading the statewide organization, releases the draft of a tough new human rights ordinance that would ban bias in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of race, color, creed, ancestry or national origin. The draft, endorsed by the local NAACP now led by Odell Taliafero, provides a maximum fine of $200 or thirty days in jail for violations. It would replace the current 16-member Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights, which Barbee chairs, with a nine-member commission with a full-time director. Like the current commission, the new body would attempt to resolve any complaints through conciliation and persuasion, but would also have the new power to order a hearing before a 3-member panel to decide the complaint and issue remedial orders which the city attorney could take to court for enforcement. The draft declares the right of all persons to “live in decent housing,” and explains that the ordinance is necessary because “many persons have been compelled to live in circumscribed sections under substandard, unhealthy, unsanitary and crowded living conditions because of discrimination and segregation in housing.” It would apply to property owners, real estate brokers and agents, and financial institutions, and cover the sale, lease, rental or financing of real estate. The proposal is referred to the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights, which Barbee also chairs.
With no progress coming on efforts to build the Monona Terrace auditorium designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Mayor Henry Reynolds proves how powerful just the threat of a mayoral veto is as he bends the common council to his will over the wording of a referendum on its future. The project has been in limbo since construction bids came back in early 1961 more than $8 million over the $4 million budget, which had been set by referendum in 1954. Hoping to get the project back on track, supporters had sought a new referendum in November 1961, but were unable to overcome Reynolds’ veto. Now they want to try again this April, proposing the question, “Shall the City of Madison redraft the present plans and specifications and proceed to construct an auditorium and civic center at the Monona Terrace site?” But Reynolds says it’s intellectually dishonest not to include the price tag in the question, and he threatens to veto the referendum resolution. He wants the question as it’s framed by the citizens group opposing the project, the Citizens Realistic Auditorium Association, where he was vice president before getting elected in April 1961. Their question asks, “Shall the City of Madison terminate all plans for an auditorium and civic center at the Monona Terrace site at the end of Monona Avenue and in Law Park, and immediately take steps to select an alternative site for the auditorium and civic center?” It’s very clever language – not only does it force supporters to explain that to vote for Monona Terrace, you have to vote against the referendum, but it also lets opponents piggy-back on the popular and very expensive $9.3 million school bond issue, with “vote yes on both referenda” campaign ads. So even though the pro-project language is endorsed in a preliminary vote 12-10, supporters realize they don’t have the votes to overcome the veto Reynolds makes very clear he will issue. Some alders accuse him of being a dictator and destroying democracy, but they ultimately yield and adopt the language he wants, 16-6.
Two important developments in urban renewal. The federal Public Housing Administration gives preliminary approval to the four sites the Madison Housing Authority has picked for 160 units of public housing, including a 60-unit project on Regent St. for elderly residents of the Greenbush neighborhood being displaced by the Triangle project. There will also be units for low-income households in South Madison, at Truax Field and on Webb Ave.
And after almost two years of wrangling over a new site, it’s out with the old and in with the new for Madison’s only Black-owned bar, Zachary Trotter’s Tuxedo Café. The Madison Redevelopment Authority needs his land on the south side of West Washington Ave for the Brittingham urban renewal project, but can’t proceed until Trotter is able to relocate. Which he can’t do until the council lets him transfer his license to a new location. But his first two attempts to relocate to a new site on the South side were turned down by the council due to heavy neighborhood opposition. He’s finally able build a 2-story bar and apartments at 1616 Beld Street, which he opens on February second. A few days later, the MRA starts knocking his old building down.
The Daily Cardinal board of control names philosophy major Jeff Greenfield of NYC its new editor-in-chief -the first sophomore to hold the position in the paper’s 69-year history. Greenfield is also vice president of the campus chapter of the liberal Americans for Democratic Action to accept, on the UW debate team, and on the staff of the Wisconsin Review, activities he is resigning to assume his new duties. Just a few weeks into the job, the 18-year-old pens an editorial welcoming Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X to campus which takes white liberals to task for being shocked at the growing movement of black separatism. “We of the white race should not be too surprised at this reaction to 300 years of subjugation,” he writes, adding “our task is no longer to spread enlightenment. Rather, the burden is guilt – guilt for three centuries of inhumanity and exploitation of a race. Our burden is to shoulder that guilt and to set about ending that exploitation now. The time is now for a frontal assault on racial discrimination. Men’s minds cannot be changed overnight, but legal barriers and discrimination can be eliminated.” Ironically, Malcolm X doesn’t make it to campus due to what he laughingly calls “white power” – a heavy snow storm that prevents him flying up from Chicago.
But even without the Muslim minister, there’s heavy intellectual firepower on campus at the third annual WSA Symposium, featuring Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr Ralph Bunche, Harlem Congressman the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Herbert Herblock Block, and a debate between liberal US Senator Eugene McCarthy and conversative Russell Kirk.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, vaccine-taking mask-wearing listener-supported WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s last drawing of Monona Terrace, completed Feb. 15, 1959, seven weeks before his death, (c) 2018 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, All Rights Reserved