Madison in the Sixties – the third week of September, 1969
The city takes an historic step in civil rights as the Police and Fire Commission certifies the first Black man for appointment to the 226-officer Madison Police Department. He’s Air Force Sgt Johnny E Winston, recently returned from Vietnam, currently an Air Policeman at Tyndell AF Base in Panama City, FL. He’s scheduled to finish his tour of duty next June, but may be discharged early to take up his new job. Winston enlisted in the AF a week after graduating from High School in South Bend IN, and was stationed for nearly two years at Truax Air Base. That’s when he met and married Mona Adams, daughter of Mrs. Adreena Adams, 15 Lakeshore Ct. The Winstons have a year-old son, John Jr.
The Board of Education also has racial equity its mind. It creates a new committee to study whether Black and other minority students are getting fair treatment in school curriculum and other policies. The new committee expands the existing Education Committee by adding a Black high school student, two administrators, and four representatives of the NAACP, Urban League and other community groups. The board also decides to see if it can use its purchasing power to force city construction trades to provide equal opportunity for minority workers and firms. And it promises welfare recipients whose payments the state legislature recently slashed that it would not charge fees for school lunches, lockers, books or other items, unless and until the state restores their benefits.
Draft resister Ken Vogel, indicted on federal charges for refusing induction into the Armed Services, takes sanctuary in the First Congregational Church on Breese Terrace. Vogel is former seminary student from Manitowoc County who burned his draft card at a Dane County Board meeting in March. Although the US attorney says Vogel won’t be arrested until next week, about fifty other young white men join him, vowing to peacefully assist him resist arrest. Taking their cue from the movie Spartacus, they all wear name tags that read, “Hello, I’m Ken Vogel.” That first night, unidentified persons throw rocks at the Naval ROTC armory across the street from the church, shattering several large windows. Vogel and his supporters remain at the church throughout the week, as the feds make no attempt to arrest him.
The semester’s first mass meeting of Madison SDS features a failed attempt to take over the meeting by SDS national secretary Jeff Jones and a half-dozen members of the militant Weatherman faction. Jones prances about and berates the Great Hall crowd with revolutionary rhetoric for about fifteen minutes until most of the eight hundred or so attendees turn their chairs around to proceed with the real business of the meeting—adopting the “Three Demands,” as formulated by the “Woody Guthrie Collective” leadership group: kicking ROTC off campus and closing both the Army Mathematics Research Center, and the Land Tenure Center.
In a stunning reversal, the council fences in student renters in the already-overcrowded downtown, by adopting an ordinance banning more than two unrelated persons renting in an area zoned for single-family dwellings unless the building owner lives on premises. The measure failed by two votes last week, but after chief sponsor Ald. Ricard Landgraf agreed to allow existing uses to continue, it easily passes, 18-3. Landgraf, from the Vilas Area 13th Ward, says neighborhoods with single-family houses “are being destroyed” by student housing and absentee landlords. Downtown alders Paul Soglin and Eugene Parks both blast the council action, which they attribute to hypocritical liberals. The Wisconsin State Journal applauds the new restrictions as an appropriate way to restrain absentee landlords from creating what it calls overcrowded slums of student ghettos.
Madison continues to grapple with the crisis gripping its mass transit system. With the city contract subsidizing the Madison Bus Company set to expire on November 10, the company had proposed a three-year extension, with the city buying the company at the end of the contract; Mayor William Dyke supported that deal, but council liberals who favor city ownership coming sooner turned it down, voting instead for a one-year contract, with the city buying the company at any time within that period. That wasn’t acceptable to the company. Now, liberals and company executives have agreed on a five-month extension of the current contract, with the city committing to buying the company by April 10, 1970. But with 17 votes needed for approval, a block of seven conservatives, opposed to the city making that commitment, vow to kill the deal when it comes to the council next week. And they’ve got Mayor Dyke’s support to do so. Meanwhile, the November 10 deadline draws ever closer.
Car traffic – the daily assault by 8,000 cars using Spaight and Jenifer streets as a shortcut to and from downtown– is killing the Marquette neighborhood, leaders of the MNA tell the city traffic commission. “We’re not going to lie down and get paved over,” association officer David Mollenhoff says in an extraordinary two-hour session, as he presents several ideas on how to divert outside traffic. City traffic engineer Don Theobald says most of the association’s proposals have already been budgeted for, just not as quickly as the neighborhood wants.
The largest discount department store chain in the world opens two stores in Madison. K Mart, a subsidiary of S.S. Kresge Company, holds ribbon cutting ceremonies for stores out East Washington Avenue and down on Ann Street, off the west beltline.
Madison gets a new mini-movie theater, the Stage Door, formerly the back stage area for the Orpheum theater. The 1968 black and white British cult film noir The Committee, featuring about 20 minutes of original music by Pink Floyd, and starring the singer from the English band Manfred Mann, is the opening night feature.
And announcement is made that Army Specialist 4 Dennis W. Shew, 21, son of Mr. and Mrs. Roger Shew, 1101 Mendotta St., was killed in a non-combat vehicle crash in Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam on the 11th. The native Madisonian graduated from East High School in 1966 and entered the Army in March, 1968. He had been in country since March of this year. The family requests that memorials be made to St Paul’s Lutheran Church.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, mask-wearing, hand-washing socially distant WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan.