Madison, March second, 1960.
It’s Ladies Day in the Wisconsin Presidential primary, as John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey send senatorial sisters and a spouse as distaff surrogates. Three of Kennedy’s four living sisters, half-way through a five-day tour of ten counties, stay overnight at the Edgewater, then embark on an 11-hour campaign of coffee and cookies at twenty city homes. Youngest sister Jean, married to attorney Steven Smith, handles the cup-and-saucer chores in the central area; it’s an east side tour for Patricia, wife of Rat Packer movie star Peter Lawford, while Eunice, married to the head of the Chicago Merchandise Mart, Sargent Shriver, pays visits on the west side, her hosts including Geraldine Krawczak Nestingen, wife of Mayor Ivan Nestingen, and Patricia Brody Reynolds, wife of AG John Reynolds, 4181 Cherokee Drive. The trio does not visit their only surviving sister, Rosemary, who has lived at St. Coletta in Jefferson Wisconsin after a botched lobotomy in 1941 left her permanently incapacitated and unable to speak intelligibly. Socialite sister Kathleen Kennedy died in a plane crash in 1948. March 2 is a multi-candidate Ladies Day; Mrs. Muriel Humphrey is in town, representing husband Hubert at a west side coffee before visits to Mazomanie, Verona and Gays Mills. The candidates themselves will be back in town next week. And the campaigns file their delegate slate for the April 5 ballot – among those pledged to Sen. Kennedy, Madison Mayor Ivan Nestingen, Milwaukee Congressman Clement Zablocki, attorney general John Reynolds for Kennedy; the Humphrey slate includes State Senator Carl Thompson of Stoughton and State Representative Fred A Risser of downtown Madison.
Meanwhile, there’s an intense two- hour Student Senate debate in Great Hall over whether to endorse a march up State Street in support of civil rights activists who are challenging lunch-counter segregation in Southern chain stores. Marching is what protest leaders planned on doing – until UW president Conrad Elvehjem, who in 1931 supported banning African-Americans from living in his neighborhood of Nakoma, said he didn’t want his students taking it to the streets. “We teach our students to look into the facts and get the information and not to put on demonstrations,” he says. So the group turned to the WSA Senate for guidance. Former WSA vice president Bill Steiger — chair of the national Young Republicans and son of the president of the UW Board of Regents — argues forcefully for the march; WSA treasurer Ed Garvey, concerned that the protest is largely led by members of the Socialist Club, argues against the idea. By a vote of 19–10, the Senate refuses to endorse the march; organizers are disappointed but proceed with plans for a Library Mall rally instead On Thursday March 3 — the decade’s first on campus civil rights demonstration, highlighted by a strong message from Governor Gaylord Nelson. Elvehjem sends a milder statement, with the gratuitous comment that “there is some inconsistency in a stand which favors taking organized marching out of the ROTC and proposing a disorganized march through the city— regardless of the importance of the cause.” Some students boo their president, whom the regents single out for praise at their next meeting.
And it’s cold and snowing that afternoon of March 2, so Dr. Jack Supernaw – chief of Wisconsin emergency medical services during World War II, then chief of surgery at Madison General Hospital, now practicing out of the Tenney Building – tells his nurse and receptionist, Mrs. Lyle Lunda, to leave early for her drive down to Verona. A founder of the Madison Astronomical Society in 1930, the 60-yo Supernaw has been suffering for about two years from severe arthritis. As his five o’clock appointment approaches, Supernaw sits at his desk and lifts a .22- caliber pistol to his right temple and fires six times. All down the third-floor corridor, it sounds like paper bags popping. Three bullets lodge in books and a heating pipe, three in Supernaw’s head. Mrs. Margaret Lee of Middleton finds the body and screams. Supernaw’s will provides for both his widow and his first wife, whom he describes as “the only woman I ever really loved.”
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan