Madison in the Sixties. The third week of June
1961— While civil rights activists from the UW risk life and liberty traveling through the Deep South as Freedom Riders seeking to integrate interstate bus travel, about 150 supporters of the Student Council on Civil Rights rally on the library mall then march to the Capitol. They want Governor Gaylord Nelson to petition Mississippi governor Ross Barnett to release former UW student James Wahlstrom and other Freedom Riders jailed in his state. Nelson is away at a conference, but an aide to the liberal Democrat tells the group the governor agrees with them and condemns the arrests. But the Daily Cardinal is not impressed by what it calls a “harmless, and purposeless parade,” and editorializes that “Perhaps someday someone will really do what needs to be done instead of remaining content with childish publicity stunts.”[i]
1962—An overflow crowd at St. Raphael’s Cathedral celebrates a high pontifical mass for the fiftieth anniversary of the ordination of the founding bishop of the Madison Diocese, the Most Reverend William P. O’Connor. The sacerdotal jubilee brings together the greatest array of Catholic prelates Madison has ever seen, including four cardinals, and is televised from the historic 1866 cathedral a block from the Capitol.[ii]
1964 —Slugging centerfielder Rick Reichardt, a UW junior from Stevens Point, ends a baseball bidding war and signs with the Los Angeles Angels for an astronomical $205,000 — twice what future Hall of Famer Willie Mays is making. The sum so stuns Major League Baseball that the league starts an amateur draft, making Reichardt the last of the baseball “bonus babies.”[iii]
In 1965, two projects started by conservative former mayor Henry Reynolds reach fruition under his liberal successor, Otto Festge. On the 21st, the new $2.2 million Central Library opens at 201 W. Mifflin Street, with a formal dedication set for the 23rd. And final preparations are underway for the dedication of the Gay Braxton Apartments, the first new housing in the Triangle urban renewal area, once the heart of the Greenbush neighborhood. The 60 units of public housing for the elderly, named for the late longtime director of Greenbush’s Neighborhood House, are Madison’s first public housing units since the Truax apartments for veterans were built in 1949. All of the initial tenants lived in the area which was torn down; Most of them express delight with their new accommodations, which were approved and funded under Reynolds.
Madison’s fifth public high school, under construction at Mineral Point and Gammon Roads, now has a name – James Madison Memorial High School. But the selection, made on a 3-2 by secret ballot, is not without controversy. The Common Council, Madison Federation of Labor and Fire Captain Ed Durkin all wanted the late President Kennedy to get the honor. Several citizens suggested famed Wisconsin naturalists— a group led by Capital Times reporter Irv Kreisman proposed John Muir, while Professor Hugh Iltis and others countered with Aldo Leopold. Only one member of the public proposed paying tribute to the city’s namesake and the country’s fourth president – economic development activist Joseph W. Jackson, who had also prompted the 1963 renaming of Conklin Park on Lake Mendota for the same reason. Jackson was also one of the leading opponents to the Frank Lloyd Wright Monona Terrace auditorium and convention center, which the city abandoned in 1962. School board member Ruth B. Doyle warns that the intended tribute will quickly fade; with three other high schools already having Madison in their names, she says the new school “is bound to wind up being known as just ‘Memorial.’” Board member Arthur “Dynie” Mansfield, longtime UW baseball coach, disagrees with the council and his distaff colleague. “That argument is a lot of hokum,” he says. The council, which controls the school board budget and bonding authority, is not happy at the vote; fifteen aldermen, claiming to be acting only as “citizens, taxpayers and parents,” write the board, urging it to reconsider, but the board stands by its decision. The fact that Madison owned slaves does not come up during the debate.
1965 sees Madison’s streets turning so mean that Police Chief Wilbur Emery announces the return of two-man patrol cars, which his predecessor had discontinued in 1950. Emery explains it’s, “for the safety of our officers and the protection of people involved at arrest scenes. Policemen are meeting more resistance in enforcing the law,” he says, pointing to the March 19 melee on State Street during which a gang beat Patrolman Richard G. Osterloth so severely he was hospitalized. The reassignment of personnel will mean the elimination of evening walking beats on State Street, Capitol Square, the E Wilson railroad area and the Atwood business district.
A new era in jurisprudence begins as Atty. James E Doyle Sr is sworn in as the federal judge for the western district of Wisconsin. Doyle, a founder of the modern Democratic Party of Wisconsin, is married to former State Rep, and current School Board member Ruth Bachuber Doyle.
And an era in train travel ends when the Chicago & North Western Railway suspends use of its historic Blair Street depot, built in 1910 for a quarter million dollars, and shifts to a new facility out E. Johnson St. A week later, Madison Gas & Electric announces it has paid $390,000 for the depot and adjoining property, which it will use for offices, storage, and propane production.[iv]
In 1968, Mayor Festge’s effort to enact a modest gun registration ordinance in the wake of the assassination of Senator Robert F Kennedy falters at the city council. Among those voting against the mayor’s measure are the two deputy sheriffs, the former city policeman, and the assistant district attorney now serving on the council. Then the council reconsiders and refers the entire matter to a special committee to be appointed by Festge.[v]
In 1969—The first issue of Madison Kaleidoscope, Madison’s second underground newspaper, is published. The weekly paper is edited by Dave Wagner, poetry editor for the state’s first underground paper, Connections. Wagner says the paper’s purpose is “to create a critical consciousness of life and culture in Madison” and work for radical change.[vi]
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, listener-supported WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan
Dedication of the Gay Braxton Apartments, June 24. Mary Lee Griggs, longtime companion and valued colleague of the late Neighborhood House director Gay Braxton, is the guest of honor at the dedication of the Madison
Housing Authority’s sixty units of public housing for the elderly. At left, Mayor Otto Festge and former MHA chair Roland Day, each of whom recognizes former mayor Henry Reynolds for leadership on this and other public housing projects. To Griggs’s left, the federal Public Housing Authority’s P. F. Papadopulos and current MHA chair, Realtor Earl Espeseth. In the background, the new residents—all from the old neighborhood.91 WHI IMAGE ID 138227, PHOTO BY DAVID SANDELL
[i] Rich Wilson, “Another Rally and March Planned Today by Council,” DC, June 22, 1961; editorial, “Ineffectual,” DC, June 22, 1961; Rich Wilson and Cecil Conrad, “Freedom Rides Supported at Rally, March Thursday,” DC, June 23, 1961; “Student March Here Protests Rider’s Jailing,” WSJ June 24, 1961; CORE, “The Freedom Rides,” http://www.core-online.org/History/freedom%20rides.htm.
[ii] “Historic Cathedral Mass To Mark Bishop’s Golden Jubilee Today,” WSJ, June 25, 1962; “Overflow Crowd at Cathedral As Bishop Marks 50th Jubilee,” CT, June 25, 1962.
[iii] Murray Olderman, “Biggest Bonus of All Beckoning Reichardt, Claim,” CT, June 23, 1964; “Reichardt to Sign Angels’ Pack[Pact?] yes Today,” CT, June 24, 1964; Charles Maher, “Reichardt’s Bonus Set at $175,000,” CT, June 25, 1964; “Reichardt Signs Angels Contract,” WSJ, June 25, 1964; Dave Wolf, “Reichardt Signs with Angels,” DC, June 25, 1964; Wolf, “Rick Reichardt—Pride and Determination,” DC, July 2, 1964; Wolf, “Reichardt Named Player of the Year,” DC, July 10, 1964; Hawkins, “The Summer of a Badger Bonus Baby,” DC, September 16, 1964; Edwin Shrake, “The Richest Bonus Baby Ever,” Sports Illustrated, July 6, 1964, https://www.si.com/vault/1964/07/06/607968/the-richest-bonus-baby-ever.
[iv] Maraniss, “N.W. Depot Sale Is Near,” CT, June 14, 1965; Wilbur, “CNW to Stop Using Its Old Depot Monday,” CT, June 16, 1965.
[v] Raymond Merle, “City Council Turns Down Gun Register,” WSJ, June 26, 1968.
[vi] Madison Kaleidoscope 1, no. 1 (June 23—July 6, 1969); Judy Shockley, “Out of the Basement: Madison Kaleidoscope,” DC, July 2, 1969.