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.

Martin Luther King National Day of Mourning

President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed Sunday, April 7, 1968, as a national day of mourning for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I wrote back in January about a class project at Ohio University that put me in an ideal position to cover the event in front of the John Calhoun Baker University Center as both a student and photo editor of The Ohio University Post.

Next weekend is the 100th anniversary of The OU Post and some of these photos have my colleagues in the background. I won’t be able to make it to Athens for the reunion, so this is my contribution to being there in spirit.

Students filled the street

Hundreds, if not thousands, of students filled the street in front of the student union and spilled out onto the Main Green.

OU President Vernon Alden spoke

The Kennedyesque OU President Vernon Alden, center, wearing a black armband, spoke.

Religious leaders were present

All of the local faiths were represented.

Crowd was solemn

I was struck by how seriously everyone took the ceremony.

A salt and pepper group

The front ranks were heavily represented by black students, many wearing signs that said “In Mourning.”

Not your normal gathering

Most of the white students in the back were dressed more casually, but this wasn’t your normal student gathering.

The mood was solemn and there was no laughing or calling across the group.

I had been to many protests, concerts and gatherings on the Main Green, but this one had a feeling of dignity about it.

It brought to mind the spontaneous gathering the day of the Kent State shootings.

Instead of being your normal batch of campus radicals, you had a mixture of jocks, sorority girls, frat boys, professors and townspeople all coming together to try to make sense of what had happened.

The racial mix on this day was probably proportional to the school’s makeup.

The ceremony ended

After the formal ceremony ended, the crowd started to disperse. Many of them walked a block north to Court and Union, the main intersection in town.

A small group of students sit down

A small group of students sat down in the middle of the intersection.

The crowd grows

More and more students joined the sit-in. Again, uncharacteristically, this wasn’t your normal group of rowdy drunk students who block this intersection on the first warm spring night after a cold winter. You can tell from the expressions that this is a serious occasion.

All of downtown is blocked

Finally, the whole intersection for at least a half-block in all directions was full of students.

James Steele addresses crowd

James Steele, who was one of the speakers at the formal ceremony, addresses the crowd.

I should explain something before we get to the part where things turn ugly. Ohio University was founded in 1804, so the local police have a lot of experience in dealing with unruly students.

Usual procedure was to see if they’d break up on their own. If not, a half-dozen cops would show up in “bats and hats,” somebody would read the riot act over a bullhorn, then there would be some pushing and shoving, followed by everybody heading back on campus.

Rarely were any arrests made. Some bricks and bottles might get thrown and a few windows could get broken, but I never heard of any looting of the downtown stores. The police didn’t even use teargas at any event I covered until the spring of 1970.

Captain Charlie Cochran didn’t follow script

Athens Police Captain Charlie Cochran, always a hothead, didn’t follow the script. Instead of giving the normal order to disperse and having enough officers present to enforce it, he waded into the demonstrators and literally threw them off “my street.”

Seriously misread crowd

Charlie didn’t realize this wasn’t your normal unfocused mob of kids out for a good time. These folks had seen their national leader gunned down. They were hurting and looking for a place to direct their anger. They didn’t take kindly to being manhandled on a day of mourning.

Cooler head prevails

A friend grabbed the fellow who had been thrown to the ground just before he could retaliate. If the two had tangled, I’m convinced the whole crowd would have joined in and someone would have been seriously hurt.

Chief, James Walen works out compromise

Before things could get out of hand, Police Chief Fred James, left, and James Walen, university vice president for administrative affairs, right, worked out a compromise.

The chief agreed to allow the students to continue the demonstration for a “reasonable amount of time” and the students agreed to leave peacefully after that.

Charlie didn’t look happy to have me part of this confab, but this isn’t the first nor the last time that we’d have an awkward moment together. I’m not sure who the concerned citizen in the middle was.

Before long, intersection open

The bulk of the crowd retreated to the corners, then, after a “reasonable time,” everyone else moved on.

“Where do we go from here?”

A writer in The Athena, the university yearbook, penned, “The King is Dead! It echoed in microphones; and hearts were horrified throughout the campus, country, and world. Martin Luther King Jr. started a dream, but a bullet couldn’t shatter it. Now, where will his dream go?

“We talk about the coup d’etats of South America and the street riots in Europe, but when will we stop destroying our Kennedys and Luthers? Let us not scatter after the black arm bands have been put away.”

Well, that’s not exactly deathless prose, but it – and the scraps of posters in the middle of the street – raise an important question: “Where do we go from here?” Based on the headlines I worked on later, it doesn’t look like we learned a lot from 1968.

Photo gallery of King Memorial Day

I’ve included a wide variety of photos. If you were there that day, you might want to share them with your grandkids. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

Post and Athena folks, I’m pretty sure I’ve spotted Clarence Page, Joyce Halasa, Ed Pieratt, Todd Schofer and Tom Price. (Now that I think of it, I think this is a class I flunked because I didn’t turn in an assignment. Wonder if I could submit this for extra credit 43 years late.)