Dean Kahler, Shot at Kent State

 

Kent State 08-25-2015I suspect one or two of my readers will grouse again this year, “Why are you bringing up Kent State? It’s ancient history.”

Dean Kahler has a good answer for that: “History will hurt you if you don’t learn about it. It’s important that you learn about it, and it’s important that you don’t forget about it so you don’t repeat it.”

Dean was one of nine students injured by National Guard gunfire on May 4, 1970, at Kent State University in Ohio. He was a first-quarter freshman, a farm boy from near Canton who was a conscientious objector because of his religion. He had read about demonstrations in the newspapers and national news magazines. “As a farm boy, you don’t get a chance to go to protests,” he said, ” because the cows have to be milked.”

Classes were supposed to be held as normal on May 4, so Dean decided to drive onto his campus to see what was going on. He was in the parking lot behind him in this photo, 300 feet away from the closest National Guardsman, when he saw them turn “with their deliberate motion.”

When he saw them turn, “I knew they were shooting.” He dropped to the ground because there was nowhere to run to and no cover for him.

Like when you pith a frog

[Watch the video to hear Dean tell about the shooting in his own words.]
“I knew I had been shot because it felt like a bee sting. I knew immediately because my legs got real tight, then they relaxed just like in zoology class when you pith a frog,” he said. He never walked again, but he has turned into a highly competitive wheelchair athlete.

After the shooting stopped, he called out to see if there were any Boy Scouts around who could turn him over. “The only thought that came into my head was if I was turned over, would I bleed more internally than externally? I thought (shrugs shoulders) there’s a 50 / 50 chance that you’re going to die one way or the other. I knew I might die. I had a really good chance of dying, so I wanted to see the sky, the sun, leaves, peoples faces. I didn’t want to be eating grass when I died.”

Dean and my old publisher

Kenner Bush - Dean Kahler at Sky Has Fallen exhibit opening 04-17-2015I was honored that Dean drove down from the Canton area for the opening of the Athens County Historical Society’s exhibit The Sky Has Fallen that contained scores of my photos. Dean, who was a well-regarded Athens county commissioner for eight years, is talking with Kenner Bush, my old publisher at The Athens Messenger.

Curator Jessica and I met Dean when we went up to the Kent State May 4 Visitors Center to talk about how the historical society’s museum could work with the visitor center on future exhibits about the protest era. I thought he was just a helpful volunteer until it became obvious that he had more than book knowledge about what happened that day.

The man who prevented a massacre

The Center had one of the most powerful videos I’ve ever seen anywhere. When they played the sound of the gunfire, I lost it. That was followed by a clip of professor who probably prevented a massacre. He stood between the guard and the students and begged the students to sit down. When the situation somewhat stabilized, the students took off in different directions “so that someone would be alive to tell the story.”

So, how long am I going to ride this story. Probably every May 4, just like my old chief photographer, John J. Lopinot will send me a message that just says, “Never Forget.”

Clarence Page – Hall of Famer

Clarence Page - OU Post 1968I got an email from an Erin Roberts, External Relations Coordinator, Scripps College of Communications, at Ohio University this week. Wow, that’s a mouthful.

Anyway, she wrote, “Andy Alexander let me know that you were a student photographer while he and Clarence Page were both writers with the Post. I am currently working on a short photo montage honoring Clarence, as he will be inducted into the Ohio Communication Hall of Fame on campus later this month. Do you have photos from that time of Clarence that might aid me in the presentation?”

I think I can come up with a few

Mark Roth - Clarence Page - Andy Alexander OU Post Staff 09-26-1968Oh, boy do I ever. Of course, when the Hall of Fame gets wind of student reporter Clarence, they may make a last-minute shuffle in their choice. Maybe I shouldn’t bring up the story about how Clarence got the publisher of The Athens Messenger hauled out of bed in the wee hours of the morning.

Clarence and the F-word

Ohio University Post staffer Clarence Page 09-26-1968Here’s Clarence’s version of what happened:

Kenner Bush, [publisher of The Athens Messenger, which printed The Post] told me the typesetters woke him up in the morning, poised to walk out rather than print my uncensored reporting of the F-word that brought a student into conflict with an 1812 Athens code. OU President Vernon Alden wasn’t happy either, to say the least. As some of you will vividly recall, our generation of Posties was pushed to the brink of expulsion and gazed over the edge before we were yanked back amid a burst of national publicity.

Clarence was born June 2, 1947, in Dayton. After his graduation from Ohio University in 1969, the Army got its mitts on him for a short period of time, then he went to work for The Chicago Tribune. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1989.

Today, a much rounder-faced Clarence shows up on political talk shows trying to bring some light to the heat.

Ohio College Newspaper Association President

Clarence Page - ONPA President 04-15-1968The Post did quite well in Ohio College Newspaper Association competition in 1968. Clarence was elected president of the association.

When Carol Towarnicky and I got together this fall to do a presentation on the birth of the student rights movement at Ohio University, we traded “remember when?” stories. She implied that she and I engaged in some shenanigans that helped get Clarence elected preisdent. She claims that she and I climbed on the roof of the hotel where the conference was being held and hoisted a bed sheet with a Page campaign slogan on it from the building’s flagpole.

Now, climbing on rooftops and water towers is something I did frequently, but I disavow any knowledge of such tomfoolery, even though I’m sure the statute of limitations has long expired.

Other OU Post stories

Clarence Page photo gallery

This collection is primarily so Erin can get a look at a young Clarence while there may still be time to arrange a more reputable Hall of Famer, one who wasn’t the first to publish the F-word in a newspaper in Athens, Ohio. Click on any image to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery.