Madison in the Sixties –November, 1965
John Lewis, the 25-year-old national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, returns to Madison for two speaking engagements on the second, starting with a noon rally on the Memorial Union steps. That night, 400 students give him a standing ovation after his address in Great Hall, then move up Langdon Street to the Hillel Foundation for a freedom hootenanny.[i] Lewis, who was severely beaten on the Edmund Pettus bridge during the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery in March, tells the students, “We must recognize the fact that racism is embedded in the very heart of this country. We are in the midst of a world-wide revolution. It’s not a struggle of black against white. It must continue to be a war between justice and injustice. It is a struggle against a vicious and evil system. A system of segregation which puts more value on property rights than on human rights. Our country is becoming more and more a violent country, yet people expect the Negro to be non-violent, to be superhuman. If we do not want to see any more racial fires burn through this nation, all of us here and now must do all we can to put an end to segregation.”
Acclaimed photojournalist Dickey Chapelle, forty- seven, sister of UW geology professor Robert Meyer, becomes the first female American war correspondent to be killed in action in Vietnam when a Marine trips a booby- trapped land mine while she is covering a large Marine operation near the Chu Lai air base on November 4. A Shorewood, Wisconsin, native who covered wars from Iwo Jima to Da Nang, Chapelle was in Vietnam on assignment for the National Observer, after which she had planned to retire. A strong supporter of the American war effort, Chapelle spoke in Madison this past spring at a rally for the campus Committee to Support the People of South Vietnam and a banquet for female journalists. The committee quickly organizes a fund campaign in her honor, raising $1,600 to provide CARE relief packages for Vietnamese villagers.
US Senator George McGovern (D-SD), recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross during World War II, calls for a stop to the bombing in Vietnam, but not a military withdrawal, during his daylong appearance on November 8 as the UW’s “politician-in-residence.”[ii] He also visits with his daughter Susan, a student at the university. That night, jazz multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk dazzles a capacity crowd at Turner Hall in a benefit for the Committee to End the War in Vietnam and the Madison Citizens for Peace in Viet Nam.[iii]
On the 9th, Central High grad Tracy Nelson, who turns twenty-one next month, releases her first folk-blues record album, Deep Are the Roots, on the Prestige label. But the Shorewood Hills native, who volunteers at the Plymouth Congregational Church’s day care center and has completed two years of studies in social work at UW, isn’t planning on a career in music; she thinks she’ll go into teaching.[iv]
UW President Fred Harvey Harrington tells the regents on November 12 that students don’t lose their political rights as citizens, and that “Wisconsin’s tradition of freedom of expression has added to our national reputation.” But he calls the recent disruptive heckling of some State Department officials “disgraceful,” and suggests that the pro-war Committee to Support the People of South Viet Nam has more campus support than the Committee to End the War in Viet Nam, “although it has not received as much publicity.”[v] He’s right—a survey about this time indicates that two of every three students support the American war effort without reservation, and only one in four wants American troops out.[vi]
A month after Harrington resigned from the elite Madison club to protest apparent anti-Semitism within its board of directors, the club changes its membership rules on November 15 to make it harder for board members to blackball applicants. Harrington quit after two of the club’s nine board members rejected the membership applications from state Supreme Court Justice Myron Gordon and prominent Madison attorney Gordon Sinykin, who would have been the club’s first Jewish members. The club doubles to four the number of no votes needed to reject an application, and Gordon and Sinykin are soon members.
Putting their money where their mouths would have been, more than four thousand residence hall students give up their Thursday dinner the week before Thanksgiving, raising over $3,500 in this year’s Fast for Freedom fund-raiser for the Mississippi Poor People’s Corporation and the National Student Association.[vii]
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. returns to the Stock Pavilion on November 23, and gets a standing ovation from a near-capacity crowd of about twenty-six hundred for his talk entitled “the future of integration.” Although it’s the same title as his 1962 address it differs substantially in substance, featuring calls for a massive program of public works, expanded public education, an increase in minimum wage to $2 an hour, and the employment of blacks in Southern law enforcement.
November 23 is also campus election day, and UW students decisively tell the WSA Senate not to take stands on national or international issues that don’t “directly” affect UW students, voting 2–1 that campus government should limit itself to campus issues.[viii] Among those elected to the Student Senate is history graduate student Paul Soglin, who campaigned for “a radical approach to student government . . . one that challenges the decadent order” in which “the student joins with the administration in determining curriculum, tenure, and other major decisions.”[ix] Soglin wins a narrow victory after one of his two opponents is disqualified for a false campaign poster.
November 28—It’s a blustery twenty degrees on the Saturday after Thanksgiving when about a dozen protesters from a group called Viet Nam Dissenters, dressed in black with faces painted white, march from campus to the Capitol carrying a coffin made of paper and wood. As they near the Capitol, about fifteen members of the Citizens in Support of the United States Soldiers in Viet Nam hurl raw eggs and smash the mock coffin. Police observe the assault without response.[x]
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For you award-winning, democracy-loving, mask-wearing, hand-washing socially distant WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan
[i] Bednarek, “Rights Activists Explained: They’re Against All Violence,” WSJ, November 3, 1965; Fox, “John Lewis Condemns Government System,” DC, November 3, 1965.
[ii] Hunter, “Halt Viet Bombing, McGovern Urges in Visit to U.W.,” CT, November 8, 1965; John Powell, “McGovern Calls for ‘New Asian Policy,’” DC, November 9, 1965.
[iii] Collis H. Davis Jr., “Noted Jazz Musician Will Give Concert Here,” DC, November 2, 1965; Davis, “Monday’s Concert by Roland Kirk Proves to Be a Musical Success,” DC, November 10, 1965.
[iv] Robert Davis, “Tracy Does Very Well Indeed,” WSJ, November 14, 1965; Tracy Nelson Messenger exchange[with author?], May 13, 2017.
[v] BOR minutes, November 12, 1965; Pommer, “U. Free Speech to Stay, Harrington Tells Board,” CT, November 13, 1965.
[vi] “Young Adults Back U.S. Policy in Viet,” WSJ, July 16, 1966; “University Survey Shows Students for Viet Policy,” DC, July 19, 1966.
[vii] Leslie Simon, “‘Fast for Freedom’ in ’65 Will Aid War on Negro Poverty,” DC, November 9, 1965; Dale Shanley, “Fast Expects $3500 from Meal Refunds,” DC, November 19, 1965.
[viii] Dana Hesse and Marsha Cutting, “Referendum—No in Small Turnout,” DC, November 24, 1965; Hesse, “SRP Takes Most Seats; but Vote Turnout Is Poor,” DC, November 25, 1965.
[ix] Eric Newhouse, “Opposition Doubts SRP Poster Claims,” DC, November 17, 1965; Paul Soglin, “WSA Candidates’ Election Statements,” DC, November 23, 1965.
[x] “Eggs Greet Viet War Foes; Paper ‘Coffin’ Kicked In,” CT, November 29, 1965.
Renowned combat photojournalist Dickey Chapelle (seated at center) and other participants prior to the thirty-fifth annual
Matrix dinner on March 30, where she tells the five hundred guests in Great Hall that America is losing the war in Vietnam. Dr. Kathryn F. Clarenbach (seated to Chapelle’s right), toastmistress for the Theta Sigma Phi event, speaks on the need for every woman
to become active in her community and fulfill her own potential. Joyce (Mrs. Gerald) Bartell stands between them.163 WHI IMAGE ID 136676, PHOTO BY DAVID SANDELL