Madison in the sixties – January, 1965
On January 28, right- wing radio talker Bob Siegrist reveals that Daily Cardinal managing editor John Gruber rents a room at 515 W. Johnson St. from Gene Dennis Jr., the son of the late head of the Communist Party USA, and that another renter, Michael Eisenscher, is both the son of the former chair of the state Communist Party and a Communist himself. And Siegrist claims to see a disturbing pattern of the Cardinal covering the same stories as the Communist Party’s Daily Worker. The next day, Republican state senator Jerris Leonard writes Regent president Arthur DeBardeleben that he’s “very much disturbed” to learn about Gruber’s rooming house relationship “with known political leftists,” a situation that “has reached the point of absurdity . . . clearly appalling.”136 Denouncing what he considers the Cardinal’s “left- oriented journalism,” Leonard calls on the regents to “investigate Mr. Gruber’s associations and intensively review the editorial policy” of the Cardinal and report to the governor and legislature. “If it is determined that Mr. Gruber’s reported association influences the political tone of the Cardinal,” Leonard writes, “it is clear that his removal must be sought.” As assistant majority leader and chair of the powerful State Building Commission, which controls major university construction, Leonard issues a not- so- veiled threat. The situation is of “such a serious nature,” he writes, that if the regents don’t investigate and report within two weeks, he will call for a “special legislative committee to study this matter and take appropriate action. This situation cannot be allowed to continue for even one more month.” The campus waits to see how the regents will respond.
The all-male city council ignores city attorney Edwin Conrad’s warning against “beginning the year of the Great Society by discriminating against women” and adopts an ordinance, 14–7, barring the issuance of a bartender’s license “to a member of the female sex, or to any person afflicted with a contagious or venereal disease.”169 “This is not discrimination,” Mayor Henry Reynolds, longtime trucking company president, replies. “It’s setting qualifications. You’re saying a woman isn’t qualified to be a [licensed] bartender, it’s a class of work a woman shouldn’t be doing.” Current ordinance allows women to serve as bartenders when there is a licensed operator on the premises. But due to a drafting error, it also permits women to be licensed. Conrad not only urges the council to accept that, but also to amend the 1963 Equal Opportunities Ordinance by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. The council ignores its lawyer on both accounts, precluding that employment and leaving the discrimination unaddressed. It accepts instead legal commentary from police chief Wilbur Emery, who requested the legal prohibition. Sponsor Ald. Harold “Babe” Rohr references the council’s gender exclusivity. “I think we’re all men enough on this council to take the position that a woman’s place is not behind the bar,” the painter’s union leader declares. Not necessarily so, says railroad switchman Ald. Leo Cooper, Ninth Ward. “Any woman behind the bar won’t cause half as much trouble as some on the other side of it,” he says.
The 1965 mayoral campaign begins in earnest, with four main candidates – County Clerk Otto Festge, electric company executive George Hall, former Jefferson city attorney and local tv personality William P. Dyke, and retired labor leader William Osborne Hart. The nominally non-partisan race is hardly that. Festge has lead courthouse Democrats since his first election in 1952, and his campaign chair is former state party chairman James Doyle. The chair of the Dane County Republican party is in charge of Hall’s nomination papers. Dyke was an aide to former GOP Lt. Gov. Jack Olson. And Hart is a leader of Wisconsin Socialists. A year into President Johnson’s war on poverty, Festge calls the city’s current efforts to serve city’s 4,000 households with incomes under $3,000, random and inadequate. He wants a special committee to survey the families and devise a program for their cultural, educational and economic development. Hall, who ran outgoing Mayor Henry Reynolds’ campaigns, starts his campaign continuing the incumbent’s attacks on the Capital Times. Dyke’s top priority is a downtown auditorium, preferably the Monona Terrace design by Frank Lloyd Wright at Law Park. Hart calls for the city to buy Madison Gas and Electric.
The campaign spirit seems to have caught on. A record 62 candidates file for the 22 council positions, with more districts having primaries – 8 – than unopposed incumbents – 5.
Madison’s first public housing opens, 160 units at four sites around the city. 62 households have already been approved as having incomes appropriate for the federally subsidized housing, with another 159 applications pending – meaning there is already a demand for 61 more units than are available. There are 60 units on Regent St. between Park St. and W. Washington Ave., reserved for those elderly whose homes were razed in 1962 for the Triangle urban renewal district. These apartments, the first construction in the project, will be known as the Gay Braxton Apartments in honor of the late long-time director of Neighborhood House, the Greenbush-areas settlement house, which has also been torn down. The other public housing projects for elderly and low income are at Truax Field, Webb Ave. and South Madison.
In planning and development news, the Allied Development Corporation, developer of the large plat just off Verona Road south of the Beltline, files for bankruptcy after charges of securities fraud filed against its top officers, Neil Woodington and Robert C. Kelly, cause a severe curtailment of its credit.
And the city council votes to start buying forty acres of land east of the East Beltline Highway (Highway 51) between Milwaukee Street and Highway 30 for the long proposed east side hospital.186
Finally, two Badgers who were on campus at the same time but with quite different interests die within a two-week period late in the month. Harry Stool-Dray-er, athletic director and football coach in the thirties and forties, dies of a heart attack at age 62 in Pittsburg PA, where he has been an executive with US Steel in 1950. Stool-dray-er was the quarterback on the 1924 Notre Dame team that sportswriter Grantland Rice immortalized as “The Four Horseman.”
Lorraine Hansberry, who attended the UW from 1947-1950 before moving to NY to become an honored playwright and activist, dies of pancreatic cancer. In 1959, Hansberry become the first Black woman to have their play produced on Broadway and the youngest American playwright, and fifth woman, to win the NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play for “A Raisin in the Sun. Lorraine Hansberry was 34 years old.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, Badger memorializing, listener-sponsored WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan.
Photo of the dedication of Gay Braxton Apts. on June 24, 1965 by David Sandell, WHI image 138227. From left, Mayor Otto Festge, former Madison Housing Authority Chair Roland Day, Braxton’s assistant and longtime companion, Mary Lee Griggs, the federal Public Housing Authority’s P.F. Papadopulos and MHA chair Realtor Earl Espeseth.