Madison, the third week of October, 1969. Anti-war protest, and anti-protester repression. Racial progress, personal tragedy.
The legislature’s Joint Committee to Study Disruptions, formed during the Black Studies Strike in February, issues a blistering, and very one-sided report denouncing UW administrators and endorsing the bill to close the UW security office and put Madison Police on campus full-time. Dominated by conservative Republicans, the committee says administrators “failed almost totally to anticipate the situation” that led to ten days of disruption, an hour of destruction and two thousand National Guardsmen called to campus. “The administration has displayed an incompetence to handle these matters properly,” the report declares. It also finds that some faculty have tried to “indoctrinate their students with their personal political views,” for which they should be disciplined. Students should be disciplined, too, it recommends, for certain off-campus activity “which affects the university community or the community in which the university is located.” The university must assume a responsibility for the conduct of its students on or off campus when such conduct demonstrates a danger or threat to the university community
The next day is Moratorium Day. The morning starts with a Library Mall rally in a cold drizzle, attracting about three thousand. Among the day’s seventy programs and activities are pickets at the ROTC and Army Math Research Center, a draft resistance workshop in Gordon Commons, a letter-writing campaign, well-attended lectures and teach-ins, and less well-attended special sermons and programs at five leading religious centers. University officials refused to cancel classes, where attendance ranges from one-third to well over half. The events, featuring speakers ranging from members of the Young Socialist Alliance to the Inter-Fraternity Council, are coordinated by moratorium committee chair Margery Tabankin, who also curated the Black Revolution conference in February.[ii] Doors of the Army Math Research Center were locked, and police post special guards at the Army ROTC and Bascom Hall, but there’s no trouble.
Students for a Democratic Society leaders Billy Kaplan and Marc Levy mark the day by issuing SDS’s “Three Demands”—kicking ROTC, the Army Math Research Center, and the Land Tenure Center off campus. Chancellor Edwin Young rejects the demands, the October 27 deadline for compliance, and the SDS’s request to negotiate.[iii]
At night, fifteen thousand people fill the Field House for a series of antiwar speeches—it’s the building’s largest crowd since Senator John Kennedy’s campaign appearance in October 1960. Marcella Kink of Middleton moves many in the crowd to tears with her pained and plaintive plea for meaning in the recent death of her son after his helicopter crashed northwest of Saigon. “What did he die for?” she asks, but there is no answer. Daily Cardinal contributing editor Jim Rowen, whose wife Susan is a daughter of antiwar US Senator George McGovern, gives a sharp critique of the university as the “fourth branch of the military” for its army-related research, and calls for it to be stopped.[iv]
Afterward, almost the entire crowd marches through the cold rain, with umbrellas and lit candles, filling State Street with flickering light from mall to square. There are no disturbances, other than some angry drivers who honk at the brief inconvenience, and the few radicals chanting “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, NLF is gonna win!” don’t get much traction. At the capitol, all falls to a hush but for the tolling of the bell of Grace Episcopal Church, an ecumenical memorial service for the more than nine hundred Wisconsin servicemen who have died in the war so far. As each name is read, a candle is extinguished. The mournful ceremony ends just before midnight. The war goes on. [v]
The next morning, the Moratorium provides the backdrop for a heated confrontation at the Capitol, as State Senator Fred Risser commends and defends the protesters from attacks by right wing colleagues Gordon Roseleip and Gerald Lorge. Red-faced with anger, Roseleip pounds his desk and declares, “my country right or wrong.” Madison Democrat Risser responds by implying the Darlington Republican has limited mental acuity, and says there’s “nothing that will destroy our government faster than that kind of harangue”
The next day, the regents weigh in – firmly on the side of the Republicans. Over the strong and pointed objections of President Harrington and Chancellor Young, they further tighten restrictions on the use of sound amplifying equipment, essentially eliminating the chancellor’s discretion to approve the use of bullhorns or other devices. The policy allows amplification for “events of an all-campus nature,” such as homecoming, but limits sound equipment “for any rallies or meetings sponsored by politically oriented groups [except] in extremely unusual circumstances.” When Harrington says political rallies are precisely where sound amplification is appropriate, Regent Gelatt says he’s seen bullhorns used on the Madison campus “in much the same fashion as the Hitler movement using the bullhorn in the thirties to whip up the crowd.”
Madison’s first black policeman, former Air Force Police Sgt John Winston, starts his training at the 16-week police academy. Recently returned from Vietnam, the 21-yo was given an honorable discharge 8 months early to join the Madison force. Winston and his wife the former Mona Adams of 15 Lakeshore Ct and their 15-month old son John Jr, have moved into their new home, 1483 Carver St. Winston enlisted in the air force a week after his 1966 graduation from high school in south bend Indiana. He and Mona were married while he was stationed at Truax Field for about two years before going to Vietnam.
Mrs. Elinor Gage, wife of sports announcer Fred Gage and niece of Capital Times founder William T Evjue, dies after jumping from the Top of the Park bar on the eighth floor of the Park Motor Inn while her husband is in Evanston broadcasting the Wisconsin-Northwestern football game. The former Elinor Bagley was a graduate of Central High School and the UW, and socially active as a member of Kappa Alpha Theta and the Maple Bluff Country Club. She had suffered from depression for many years, and was despondent over the divorce action Gage filed a week ago. Gage was a standout on the UW football team from 1938-1940, and is on the board of directors of the Capital Times and its charitable are, the Evjue Foundation.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For the award-winning WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan.
[i] Report of the Joint Committee to Study Disruptions at the University of Wisconsin, October 14, 1969.
[ii] Bogdanich, “Moratorium Blooms at WSA Office, with Barefoot Girls, Rainbow Paper,” DC, October 11, 1969; Clifford S. Behnke, “Moratorium’s Smorgasbord,” WSJ, October 14, 1969; “Moratorium Events to Take Many Aspects,” CT, October 14, 1969; Steve Vetzner, “U Anti-War Protests Date Back to 1965,” DC, October 14, 1969; Whitney Gould, “War Foes Here Rap Policies,” CT, October 15, 1969; “Jam-Packed Teach-Ins Mark Protest Here,” CT, October 15, 1969.
[iii] “SDS Gives ‘Ultimatum’ to End 3 U. Operations,” CT, October 15, 1969; “Young Refuses to Negotiate SDS Ultimatum,” DC, October 16, 1969; David Fine, “Demand Limit Past; SDS Plots Course,” DC, October 28, 1969; Edwin Young interview, War at Home papers.
[iv] George Bogdanich and Maureen Santini, “15,000 Attend Moratorium Day Fieldhouse Rally,” DC, October 16, 1969; Bogdanich, “Protest Rally Draws 3,000; Outline Morning Activities,” DC, October 16, 1969; Whitney Gould, “Middleton Mother, Who Lost Son in Viet, Stirs Rally,” CT, October 16, 1969; “Rowen Elucidates U-Military Cooperation,” DC, October 23, 1969; James Rowen and Margery Tabankin interviews, War at Home papers.
[v] Rosemary Kendrick, “15,000 Here Rally, March against War,” CT, October 16, 1969; Whitney Gould, “Peace Group Keeps Full Control,” CT, October 16, 1969.