Skip to main content

Interview with Joseph Lewis

:: ::




McKiernan Interviews
Interview with: Joseph Lewis
Interviewed by: Stephen McKiernan
Transcriber: Eden Lowinger and Lynn Bijou
Date of interview: 2 December 2021

(Start of Interview)

SM: 00:01
All right. My first question, Joe, is where did you grow up, and what were your parents’ careers and backgrounds in your early years? And when you talk about this, also describe your elementary and high school years.

JL: 00:18
Okay, that is a good question. I grew up on the near west side of Cleveland. I think a part of town used to be called the old Brooklyn. It is where the Christmas story is set kind of

SM: 00:32
Oh, that one.

JL: 00:33
[inaudible] from long ago. And, and I grew up I went to the elementary schools in Cleveland from the from kindergarten to the fourth grade, and I will name the schools and you will, you will see commonality I went to kindergarten at St. Mary's kindergarten. And I went to first to fourth grade in Cleveland that Our Lady of Good Counsel school, and then we moved just outside of Parma, Ohio, and I went to fourth to eighth grade at St. Francis de Sales school. And then my family moved to Massillon, Ohio, just 50 miles south of Cleveland, because my dad was a traveling salesman, and that was more centrally located because sales area, where I enrolled at Central Catholic High School in Canton. So, you will see the commonality there. I went to all parochial schools, as did all my brothers and sisters. I was the oldest of eight kids, seven who survive. And my dad, my dad was a salesman for a couple of different lumber wholesalers, United States plywood, and then later warehouse. And my mom was a homemaker, you know, in those days, you could get by with one income.

SM: 01:57
Right. During those first- do you want to add anything more?

JL: 02:06
Always. But go ahead. [laughs]

SM: 02:08
During, the question? I think you are a Catholic then, right. [laughter]

JL: 02:13
Oh yeah, oh yeah, that is true.

SM: 02:17
During those-

JL: 02:19
Good deduction. [laughter]

SM: 02:21
I can put two and two together there. During your first 18 years of life, did you identify with your generation called Boomer, I mean-

JL: 02:34
Oh, I am so stereotypically boomer. I mean, I was a boy scout, an altar boy. I was a kind of a goody, goody, I did not, I did not challenge too many of the rules in those days. So, it was like the Eisenhower era, you know, and things were- it was post-war, booming as they say and, and everything was-was kind of like growing. And I was very stereotypical of the era, I would think.

SM: 03:06
Did you did you in your neighborhood, at your schools, your parents’ friends, were a lot of the parents World War Two veterans and if they were, did you ever, did they ever talk about World War Two?

JL: 03:21
I grew up on the, when I was on the near west side our-our community was a lot of immigrants from different parts of the world. We had, on my street we had, my grandparents came from Slovakia, my maternal grandparents. So, there were Slovak people. There were Polish people. There were Italian people. There were Puerto Rican people, and German people all on our street. And so, I do not remember too much of the parents discussing World War Two. And I think that my parents were a little bit younger. They were too young for World War Two and too old for Korea. My dad, he was born in (19)30. So-so he himself was not, was not a Vet. And I do not remember too much discussion about it. Although you remember the, I assume you are a boomer too?

SM: 04:20
Oh, yeah. I am front edge.

JL: 04:22
Remember, remember our entertainment was all about I mean, World War Two movies and heroism: and patriotism: was-was all over the entertainment world at that time. But as far as the discussion of World War Two Vets, I did not I did not get exposed to that too much. Now, my grandfather lost a brother in World War Two. And, and he would, you know, they call it cursing. But what it really is-is when cursing is really when you invoke the names of the dead. When he would get really-really mad, he would say, "Oh, for the love of Mike" and that would be his brother who was killed in the war.

SM: 04:59
Wow, yeah. Yeah, I grew up in, in a community where there were a lot of vets, but they never talked about the war, it was nothing, it was just raising-

JL: 05:08

SM: 05:09
-a family going to work. Mom was at home taking care of the kids, dad was out making the money. So that is kind of that happened to a lot.

JL: 05:17

SM: 05:18
You know, as far as you know, the boomers themselves, you know, you have you lived long enough now to be a young boomer and an older boomer. When you were young through say, 40, what were some of the qualities that you admired in your, in your generation, when they were younger? Especially the front edge boomers that were born between (19)46 and say, (19)57, because boomers go up to (19)64?

JL: 05:46
Well, you know, I do not know, if I really reflected on-on that, that much. I am proud of the things that, that our generation has-has done, I think that we brought attention to the environment and, and to war policies and, and to treatment of minorities. You know, and we, of course, I think what impressed me most was the was the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King was the greatest American of my lifetime. And, and the effort he led to you, get equality for all, I think, is what-what I am kind of most focused on as a positive of our time here and in the USA. And there were struggles, you know, it was a struggle of the new the new appreciation of what was real and who was being treated fairly and who was not.

SM: 06:50
Yeah, it is interesting, because when we were young boomers, there was a summer of (19)64, which is when all those young people, a lot of African Americans, but a lot of white Americans who went down the south to try to get African Americans to vote, and risked their lives in doing so. And that was in (19)64. So, and that was-

JL: 07:11

SM: 07:11
-right at the time when we were in high school.

JL: 07:15

SM: 07:16
So, there was a lot of that, that that happening as well. And, and, you know, there was a lot of books being written now on the boomer generation, because we were now the oldest generation- can you believe it? It is hard to believe that this generation that, you know, when they were young thought they would probably never grow old. But when you reflect on this whole generation, as a whole now as a person, and probably in your early 70s, what are, did they succeed? Or did they fail in their kind of their, you know, when we talk about the protest movement, and talking about the-the amount of activists that were probably only about 7 or 8 percent, of the 74 million, who are truly activists in their lifetime. But when you look at that, their accomplishments over time, there is a lot of commentary now, some say they were, they were no different than any other generation, what made them different, in your view?

JL: 08:14
Well, the unique opportunity. I think we had to, to live in a country at a time when it was booming economically and when there was a great growth of free time. And we-we did not have to struggle just to stay alive. So, we could experiment with thoughts, ideas and practices that before were not, I do not think they were within the reach of, of people, some of the things that we had the opportunity to do like travel and, and just experiment with different ways of thinking in organizations. And I think we benefited from, from the relative peace after World War Two that allowed us, allowed our families to thrive. And give us give us stability you know, in our, in our daily lives. I think that, I think that in many ways we-we did succeed and opening, opening the discussion for like, we talked about the Civil Rights Movement and the environmental movement, American Indian Movement, anti-war movement, and I mean, those were struggles that are more, I would say more or less successful at least in drawing attention to the problems- not in solving them, but at least in pointing them out is an important thing I think.

SM: 09:52
You raise something very important, Joe and then it is, you know what, when you are, we had time to be able to discuss these things with our peers, with their teachers with even our parents. And, and so it is like the sense of kind of, we were around people who talked like we did about the things we cared about- civil rights, ending the war, whatever, as a kind of sense of community. There was a sense of some sort of a community, which is also often times divide, it is part of a quality of being an activist.

JL: 10:31
Yeah, I, you know, well, my sense of community is, I mean, I am the oldest of eight. And so, I tend to be an extrovert and kind of a bossy to brothers anyway, so I had a lot of networking in high school, and I had the friends in all different kinds of groups and, and people who thought like me, and people who did not think like me. But eventually going to college for a while, and then and then kind of, kind of identifying with like, the anti-war movement and cultural, certain cultural appreciations, focused my-my group identity even more, and so. So, in a way that is good, in a way it is bad and the way it is good is that I did get great discussions about ideas, and feelings and sentiments that I had. But it also, we see from the developments recently with the Facebook algo- algorithms and things that it, kind of is an isolating in a way to be around people who think like you.

SM: 11:43
It is true.

JL: 11:45
So-so I had both of those effects. But yeah, I definitely felt a sense of community and in those heady days of (19)68, (19)69, (19)70, when it seemed like, you know, the Woodstock generation. I mean, it seems a far cry to say the boomers are the same as the Woodstock generation, but I guess we are and, and it seemed like there was a change on the horizon for the better. And it was just about to flip to where appreciations would be modified away from profit and more for the, you know, the desire to do right and be good and fair. And just and.

SM: 12:33
Did you-

JL: 12:33
I think there was a part of the community I recognized.

SM: 12:36
Yeah, did you feel, yes, you personally, you are, you are a young person. This is I am feeling [inaudible] myself here, too. I felt, it was great to be young. I cannot explain it.

JL: 12:47
Oh, yeah.

SM: 12:47
Yeah, I could be. I could be on a bus. And I would see a beautiful girl or a woman and she was part of my generation. I could I could go over and talk to her. And I did, [inaudible]. But I could talk to her. I felt good. I mean, there was I felt good about myself. And my generation.

JL: 13:07
Yeah, you know, there was a commonality. I mean, if your hair was a little bit long, or if you had on, if you have on bell bottom pants, or beads or something, you had identifiers that kind of gave away some of your thinking.

SM: 13:24

JL: 13:25
Which meant-meant you were thinking like me. So, there was like an automatic network evolved for based on sight clues, I guess you would say.

SM: 13:36
If you have any, you know, there was a talk back then about what they call the generation gap. There is, in fact, one of my individuals I interviewed wrote the book on the generation gap and his father and person he worked for- was there a generation gap in your family?

JL: 13:53
Oh, definitely was, yeah, definitely was. My dad was, I think, voted for Nixon, at least once. And, and he was, he was not a powerfully strong conservative, but he you know, was, was a, this was the time, and I do not need to tell you, before Watergate. So, before Watergate, the people did not question what the government said as to being truthful or not. And so, there was I think there was an [inaudible]- and I did, I questioned the truth of the reports going back from Vietnam about how hard we were winning that war and, and our purposes for being there and so forth. And so, we did have a generation gap, my dad, after I was shot at Kent State, he assumed that I had done something wrong, which in fact, I did not. I mean, I-I did give some men with the rifle a finger, which is a bad idea, but it is not a crime. And it took some convincing for him to, to get to that way of thinking. So, we did have a bit of a generation gap and, and I mean I was his first, his first child and it is challenging one I am so sorry dad, rest in peace.

SM: 15:20
Well, I am going right now to your undergraduate school. Why did you pick Kent State to go there as your undergraduate?

JL: 15:28
Well-well, I will finish my I finished my, my monologue about the different schools I attended. And I will tell you the colleges I applied to. When I was a junior in high school, I started to apply to colleges. And I applied to Gonzaga University in Spokane. Xavier University in Cincinnati, St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis, Notre Dame in South Bend, and Kent State, all of them being Catholic schools, except for Kansas State. And I had good SAT scores, I was accepted to all of them. But I could not afford them because I was paying my own way and working full time and going to school full time. So, I actually applied for and received a partial award to go to Notre Dame from the Rocco foundation in Canton, Ohio, but it was still not within my means to attend Notre Dame. So, I wound up going to State University, Kent State, which in those days was unbelievably affordable, unbelievably affordable.

SM: 16:45
Could you describe your college years, I am going to certainly get into the May 4th situation?

JL: 16:52

SM: 16:52
-but could you describe your college years at Kent State both before and after, I do not know how to say this, before and after April 30th, to May 4th, 1970?

JL: 17:06
Oh, yeah. Well, for me that is a college year. [laughs]

SM: 17:11

JL: 17:12
I started school in September of (19)69 at Kent State, and that was a month after Woodstock. And you know, it was a few months before the assassination of Black Panthers in the apartment in Chicago. It was after the Beatles broke up but so going to, I got into the dormitory, Johnson Hall. And it was, as I said, I was the oldest child in my family. And so, I have done my share of babysitting and kid watching and it was the ultimate freedom to be free from my-my parents' home not that they were ever, it was ever a bad home. But I had to, you know time to come and go at the times I chose and of course, I had to do my own laundry. But I had a meal plan and two roommates in the dorm room where I lived and I was just really free to experiment with life and learning. And I loved learning. I was taking biology and French and anthropology and English in lots of different, you know, curious, and sociology was my major. And I just loved learning but I also loved freedom so that in the spring of spring of (19)70, in March, my friend and I hitchhiked around the East Coast, we-we hitchhiked down to see his cousin in Kentucky and his cousin was on spring break. So, we went on down to Georgia. We hitchhiked you know, back and forth and different places and visiting friends in Ohio and elsewhere. And it was just an enormous, enormous glory of freedom. And the, one of the things I remember most is walking around the campus that fall and the music coming out of the windows- people you know, were free now from their parents' strictures of "Turn that thing down" like I was. And then there was there was high volume music coming out of every dorm window. It was like, it was like the new bands were Led Zeppelin, Crosby, Stills and Nash, you know, McCartney's solo album, the Dead, the Stones, you know, the Beatles, a whole anthology, it was amazing. I mean, and just think, you know, to think the first time you heard Led Zeppelin blasting out of a dorm room window as you walked along, you know, it was just-just to transportive to a whole different, you know, like, this is our time now.

SM: 19:54

JL: 19:55
Rock and roll was blasting and it was it was exciting. It was very exciting. I, you know, I did, I had tried smoking a little weed and taking a little psychedelic and, and, you know, that was, that was also added a twist of interest to things and drinking, you know, drinking the three-two beer that was available [crosstalk]. Geez. So, there was lots, of lots of new things, you know, and then the relationships with, with both guys and girls. I was making friends from with people from all over the country, meeting beautiful girls from all over the, over the country. And, you know, it was just a vibrant, exciting time. And it seemed very hopeful and the future was full of prospects. Because, you know, if you had a college degree in the (19)70s, you were going to get a job somewhere and hopefully doing something you liked. And I was exploring different, different courses. And I really liked anthropology. But mostly, like I said, my major was pre-professional social work. I wanted to do something to change the world for the better. I guess that was my goal.

SM: 21:13
Yeah, you said when you when you look at Kansas State when you first got there, did you think that was more of a tranquil campus before (19)70 or did you sense that it was an activist campus from the get go?

JL: 21:26
I knew that there had been some political activity there. But that was not really what the focus was on. In fact, I remember very clearly my, my freshman orientation the summer before I went to school there, they, they were quick, quick to point out that there were 28 bars in five blocks. And that there was live music, live music almost every night and every weekend and [inaudible] and the ratio of girls to boys at Kent State was two to one. And people came from all over northeastern Ohio for the nightlife scenes on the weekends. I mean, the James Gang, Joe Walsh was the house band-

SM: 22:05
Oh yeah.

JL: 22:06
-and local bars and, and there was other, you know, musicians would come through Kent and have shown there that were fantastic. So, the activism: was not the first thing that that that anyone thought of at that time. Although I really had not been tuned in to some of the Black United Students activities-

SM: 22:26

JL: 22:26
-and the occupation of the music and speech. I did not. I maybe had read about it, but did not focus in on it so much.

SM: 22:34
You know, it is interesting, because the history books I have written this for a years when they talk about the tragedy, I as we all say, as they all need to say, the murderers at Kent State and-and-

JL: 22:47
Yeah, absolutely.

SM: 22:47
-so, I have been corrected to make sure that not the tragedy, more the murderers at Kent State. But the word on the street and on many of the history books that have been written is why did this happen, why did this tragedy happen of all places at Kent State? Why not Ohio State, why not Ohio University, which was at the time I worked there. Was one of the most liberal campuses, where massive protests were taking place or a place like Columbia, or Berkeley or even Harvard or Wisconsin, but four were killed at Kent State and the perception was in the media coverage is this tranquil campus in the Midwest.

JL: 23:28

SM: 23:28
You know, that it happened there so now the war came home to America. Your just, your thoughts on that?

JL: 23:36
Well, that is, that is kind of a hard to analyze, given what happened there after all, but there was a real town and gown division in I think, a lot of college towns and that was certainly true at Kent, we had, you know, old time farmers, farmland all around the town and, and there was definitely a difference in opinion between the people who lived in Canton, families had lived there for a long time and the students who had come from all over the northeastern United States to attend there. But I think that one source for good background is Tom Grace's book which talked about the history of Northeastern Ohio and he-

SM: 24:23

JL: 24:23
-he reminds us of some things we kind of forgot about. My grandfather who came from Slovakia, got a job in Republic steel mills and worked his whole life I mean, in the steel mills as a union steel worker and Akron had both Goodrich and Goodyear Tire and Rubber, the rubber capital of the world and in Pittsburgh and Youngstown all had steel mills and steel manufacturing plants. And it was it was a place where there was, there were many working people who had been organized into unions and who had learned how to-to speak for their own rights and stand up to the to the bosses and ask for fair wages. And so, there was a background of political activity. It was not exactly antiwar activity, and it was not necessarily student activity. But this area was booming, it was just going through a huge, a huge growth, you know, of employment and workers and families rising from rising from the lowest level of working class up into some kind of middle-class comfort, buying homes in the suburbs. And-and I think, you know, I do not know if that explains anything, but what the situation was very dynamic there.

SM: 25:45
Yeah, I have read that book. And, and I will be, I will be interviewing him as well, in the next couple of weeks.

JL: 25:52
Good, [crosstalk]

SM: 25:52
Because he has agreed to be interviewed. He is very busy, I think helping with Alan's archives and other and other things and speaking, and he is a professor, so he has got a lot on his on his table.

JL: 26:04
Yes, he does.

SM: 26:04
Yeah, you know, the whole thing of what created the tension, you were not easy to describe some of the things there because the town gown relations are terrible, even at the school that I went to here in Binghamton, New York. It was terrible. And that, what would you say, created the tension at Kent State leading up to Nixon's speech on April 30th, of (19)70? Because as a nation, not only at Kent State, but Ohio State where I went to grad school, I know what happened on that campus. The campuses erupted after that speech. Did you hear this speech?

JL: 26:42
Yes, I well, I did not actually hear it. I read about it on a ticker tape machine at Taylor Hall on Kent State campus. I do not know, you probably know what a ticker tape machine is.

SM: 26:54

JL: 26:54
Some folks, may not [laughter] and, and I read it as it was news that night, April 30th, 11 or something that night, I was walking around with my girlfriend and we were in Taylor Hall. And read that news there for the you know, when it was still hot off the presses. And then you know, saw the follow up on the in the TV evening news and news the next day. And the reaction around the country of the expansion of the war where Nixon, I blamed President Nixon and Governor Rhodes for the murders at Kent State because they set the scene. Nixon said that he would bring us together and had a secret plan to end the war and he was just lying to get elected and to hold on to power and the same thing was happening with Governor, Governor Rhodes who after the RTC building was burned, he made a huge, huge speech, inflammatory speech with the with the guard already present on the on the university campus, about the terrible terrorists who were organized and behind this, which was hyperbolic to say the least. He was really giving the-the antiwar movement a lot more credibility than it deserved at the time for their organization, their ability to create violent resistance and, and I think they painted a picture that was far more dire than was necessary at the time and resulted in the overreaction, and murder and wounding of students at Kent State and other places, in Jackson State around the country.

SM: 28:39
In your own words, because it is very important that that I do interview all the people that are still alive that were wounded at Kent State, I am actually going to be interviewing a person who was a professor at Westchester who was a student at Kent State and she was witnessing everything from her residence hall right next to the, where the it all happened. But when you, if you could describe in your own words, you. What you were doing between the 30th of April and May 5th, the day after the tra- the killings happened, just in your own words. What you saw, witnessed, experienced, were involved in, people students you spoke to, what, how did all those students come to that, the green by the bell? Because people that are going to be hearing your interview are people that are not even alive yet. They are going to be studying and doing your research on the (19)60s and Kent State is a watershed event in that era.

JL: 29:50
Well, on the Commons at Kent State there is what they called the victory bell which was supposed to be used for athletic victories but it was more commonly in those days used to-to call crowds together for assemblies. And-and so for the period that you are talking about from the time of the Cambodian incursion, until May 5th, I was not present for Friday demonstration of burying the Constitution because they said Nixon had killed the Constitution. I did not witness that but I read about it in the campus paper later. And they said that they were planning a follow up demonstration for Monday afternoon. And so, I read about that, but had not really thought much more than that about it. And Saturday, I also watched from my dorm room, which is Johnson Hall, which is immediately adjacent to the commons and Taylor Hall and the pagoda. And I watched as some, crowd assembled around the ROTC building, which there had been rumors that it would be targeted because of the presence on campus as a as a, you know, as a supporter of the war, of the war in Vietnam. And so, I went outside of my dorm and watched from the grass in front of the dorm, from a distance as some people kind of attempted to set the building on fire, unsuccessfully, several times. And they threw a safety flare on the roof and it rolled off without doing anything and they broke a window and, and lit drapes on fire and it flamed up and burned out. And then somebody in the front of the crowd- I do not know who, it was dark, and I did not know people. Somebody said, "Let us go get some more supporters." And so, the crowd marched around the whole campus, which is pretty large. And so that took, you know, 45 minutes or so. And we, I followed along behind the crowd. And we marched around the campus to a couple of the other dormitories asking people to join us and then forward to the front of the campus, past the president of the university's house, which was a well-guarded by people at the driveway and out onto the highway that connected Ravenna and Kent, and actually stopped and stopped traffic and people in the front of the crowd were blocking traffic with, they pull like construction equipment out onto the road and blocked traffic and compressors and trailers and stuff. And then people will shortly behind them would move them back out of the way. It was kind of like we do not want to really cause that much disruption. And I followed along behind and watched this happen until we got back to the front of the campus and we started to turn and go back towards my dormitory basically, which is back towards the ROTC building. And as we turned and headed back onto campus, that is when the Ohio National Guard arrived from the east, from Ravenna in trucks and jeeps and-and armored personnel carriers. So, they came rolling down the highway. And so, I turned in hightailed it back to my dormitory. And when I got there, that building was fully engulfed in flames, which I always thought was suspicious since it seemed like the attempts to ignite it previously had been unsuccessful. So, the so I went to my dorm and my-my dorm window faced the other ways. So, I went across the hall, to my friend Tom's room, and we watched out his window as the ROTC building went up in flames and burned and, and I know it is super cliché, but I have to say that while this was happening, the radio station from Cleveland, I think it was WMS was playing for what it is worth, you know, "Something is Happening Here."

SM: 34:07

JL: 34:07
This building is just flaming up and I am thinking, wow, what-what the hell you know. And so, the next day, Sunday there was, the guards who had arrived on campus that night, Saturday after the building was burned. 900 members of the Ohio National Guard were bivouacked on the Kent State campus. And they were positioned in front of the different administration buildings and different places around campus. But it was a fairly nice spring morning in northeastern Ohio, it can be pretty that time of year and-and so students and Co-eds and people were walking around having conversations with the guardsmen who were in you know, their-their steel helmets with-with their rifles and bayonets fixed on the end. And it was just a very, very bizarre to be occupied by your own army, is how it felt and-and it was very much a feeling of the war has come home. You know here-here you are at school and here are these people ready for war and so-so Sunday was just a real mix of strange feelings until the governor came to the came to the firehouse in Kent and made the most inflammatory speech, banged his fist on the table, talking about the worst people in American history of being present here, these organized student rebels and-and he gave, like I say he gave the antiwar organization a lot more credit than I thought it deserved for being effective and organized and bloodthirsty. It was not, there was not any of the way he described it that way. But I think that the guardsmen were inspired by his hatred. And there was also a rip came down that there would be no assemblies allowed of four or more people. And that the National Guard will be breaking up any assemblies of groups of people. But they also said that Monday there would be classes as usual. So, you have quite an irony there when you are having students go to classes and guardsmen breaking up you know, groups of four. Well, Sunday I, I was on, I stayed in the dorm area. But friends of mine went down to protest against the curfew. And it was a 10 o'clock curfew in the streets of Kent and 11 o'clock on the campus if I am not mistaken. And some friends of mine went to go talk to the university president and the mayor about lifting the curfew so that we could you know, go about our schooling business. And nobody ever came to talk to them, although they were promised that they would, they just sat down in the street and said, you know, wait here, we will get them to speak to you which they never did come but after the curfew time arrived, the National Guard who had surrounded these demonstrators who are peacefully sitting in the street and singing songs of the era, at a curfew time, they surrounded them and started lobbing tear gas into the group. And so, there was pandemonium, I am told and students ran and some were bayonetted that night and others were chased and beaten. And it was from my view at the dorm, it was one of the scariest sights I have seen where there were helicopters, three helicopters with search lights, hovering overhead and [crosstalk] tear gas on the campus with platoons of guardsmen shoulder to shoulder, bayonets at the ready, herding students into dormitories because they were out past curfew. And I spoke later that night with my-my resident counselor Lou, who said that he had witnessed, he was trying to conduct students to come in the end of our, of our dorm and escape the guardsmen, and they can go through the building and out the other way to their dorms. And as he got the last student, in the guardsmen behind him lunged with his bayonet and he, Luke pulled the door shut on the guy's knife, as he lunged to try and get the students and so it was a very ugly scene.

SM: 38:34

JL: 38:35
And he and I stayed up talking that night for a while and discussed whether or not those guns would be loaded with live ammunition. And we have kind of concluded there was really no need for them to be loaded with live ammunition. And I do not know if we suggested they had blanks, or why we would think that but we were pretty sure there was no need for live ammunition in those guns. But we also said it was hard to tell who was wearing the white hats and who was wearing the black hats because while students were throwing things out their windows at the dorms at the guardsmen, the guardsmen were also throwing rocks at the students' windows in the dormitories and-and it was it was just real ugly, it was a real ugly scene that night. So, Monday was classes as usual, with guardsmen all along the burned-out ashes of ROTC building. And I went to a couple of classes actually and the sociology professors and two messages one was the "Keep safe, stay low and stay out of sight" and the other was, "It is a participatory democracy and if you want your voice heard you need to get out there and do it" and I, I kind of took a second tack I wanted to support the-the protest, protesting the presence of an invasion and occupation of our campus by-

SM: 39:56

JL: 39:56
-the National Guard. But I wanted to do it in a peaceful way, you know, the way Martin Luther King showed us and the way Mahatma Gandhi showed us that, you know, collective action peaceably with a large number of people can get can get results. And so, I was headed for, I kind of think of it now as a, I was headed for some kind of street theater demonstration, but the National Guard were coming to war. And so, this was not going to be a good, good, good mix. And then, so I watched, I watched the National Guard, you know, tried to tell the students to disperse. And they said, "Students this is illegal assembly, return to your dormitories." And they said that a few times with more cat calls and more upraised fingers, and-and finally, when the students did not disperse upon the command, they fired tear gas into the crowd, from far distance with like, like, like a grenade launch modified rifles that would shoot across 100 yards. And the wind was such that it was not very effective. So, students could get wet cloths over their mouths, pick up the tear gas canisters and throw them back. And it was it was a back and forth that seemed almost theatrical, at this point, without a sense of doom, which was a mistake on my part, definitely a mistake. And so, when that did not disperse the crowd, they moved forward with their tear gas masks and helmets and bayonets at the ready and split the crowd up that way. And so, I of course, retreated between Taylor Hall and Johnson Hall, which is my dorm. I mean, I was never more than 50 yards from my room actually. I retreated between the two buildings and off to one side and the guardsmen followed up the hill and down on the other side onto the practice football field. And then myself and the students near me reassembled on the hilltop by Taylor Hall overlooking the guardsmen and then watched them take a kneel, and aim their weapons at a vocal part of the crowd, towards the Prentice Hall parking lot where Alan Canfora was with his black flag. And where other activists were yelling at them, and some people threw gravel at them. You know, there was a big deal about throwing rocks, well, they were not rocks, they were gravel, and no guardsmen were injured. But I think it irritated the guardsmen. And that was the part of the crowd where most of the dead were later on. And so, after they kneeled and aimed for a while, a small group of guardsmen gathered in the middle of the field, and then they headed back up the hill the way they had come. And so, what this meant was, they turned and walked directly towards me because of where I had moved to, after they passed by. And so, I of course, moved out of the way again, but I was very near to them. And I could see them jostling, hear their equipment, kind of rattling as it came up the hill. And they kept looking hard back over their right shoulders, which was back in the Prentice Hall parking lot area. And I have always suspected that they were picking targets at this point. And so, when they got to the top of the hill, they were very close to me, kind of right in front of me. And the first three riflemen, turned and leveled their rifles in my direction, as they had knelt and aimed previously down below. And so, I thought this was, again, a gesture of, you know, of a threatening gesture. And so, I gesture back at that time with my middle finger, my right hand up raised, and they had their guns aimed at me. And, you know, I thought it was kind of a theatrical stand up as I, as I said, I came, I came ready for street theater, but they came ready for war. And so, it was not too long, a few seconds passed. And then I saw the ground and I heard, started hearing sounds popping, saw the ground in front of me turn up and I realized that there was actual live ammo in those guns. And simultaneously to that thought I was shot. The bullet hit my right hip, and threw me to the ground where I collapsed on the ground on my back. And I learned later that a second person shot me after I had been on the ground through the lower left leg. And so, as I lay on the ground, there was 13 seconds of solid gunfire. And then it stopped and there was just a heartbeat of unbelievable silence. Before people started screaming about what had happened and what they had just seen. I was laying there and a person, persons came up to me, a person came up to my left. And it turned out to be a brother of a high school classmate of mine. He saw my ID and put it back in my pocket. And then I asked him how bad the wound was. And he said, I think it is just a flesh wound. Because he had seen the exit wound in my left jeans pocket where the bullet exited. I had an entry wound, I had an entry wound to my right front pocket like where your coin change pocket is in your jeans, that was the size of a nickel. And I had an exit wound on my left rear jeans pocket the size of a Coke can.

SM: 45:48

JL: 45:49
And when he saw he said it was a flesh wound, I was relieved, although there, that was not really true. I could not get up, and I could not, I could not move. And then a girl came from my right side and held my hand and I just squeezed the heck out of that girl's hand and she stayed with me the whole time until the ambulances came and loaded two of us into an ambulance. I was in an ambulance with John Cleary. John was shot through the lungs, apparently, and he was in terrible agony. It was a very, very difficult ride to ambulance, we, we both were very uncomfortable, I thought I was going to die. I said, as I said, you know, all the Catholic training that I had, I said a good act of contrition, asking God to forgive me for my sins. And, and I kind of thought, you know, I am only 18 I really have not committed, done too many things wrong. But just in case. Just in case, I said that prayer and got into the ambulance, got over to the hospital. And amazingly, I was semi-conscious this whole time. Even seeing high school classmates come up to the ambulance window and give me that high wave. But when I got to the hospital, the last thing, I remember, and it is comical. I love my mom and she was very strict with eight kids, you got to be strict. I got to the hospital, they said we were going to have to cut off your clothes. And I remember thinking to myself, my very last thought was, Mom was not going to like that. And then I went into, went into surgery for six hours and got several pints of blood. Went the intensive care for, unit for a week or so, the first couple of days I was 50/50 live or die I got the last rites night. Some of my friends from high school came and visited me I do not know somehow, they found me and I do not remember that but in our 50th reunion last in 2020, became an, retold me the story and it was it was very moving to hear from these seventy-year-old people about what moved them most of them were 18 and it was very touching. And I was in the hospital with Dean and John Cleary, we were all tall, I was the shortest one at 6'3" so our feet stuck out of the ends of the ICU beds. And we got to [inaudible] and friends forever. Then after a three weeks and a day, I got out of the hospital and went back to my parents’ home in Maslen and shortly thereafter read an article in the newspaper, the local Maslen evening independent which said that it had a story about the Kent State shootings and I thought well this this should be interesting so I read it and it said that students attacked guardsmen with bricks and bottles and overturned cars. And none of that was true. Not a word of that was true. And I thought, oh my god, you know my parents’ friends my neighbors here in Maslin. They think that is what is real? So-so for me the takeaway was you know, you cannot believe the media or the government. When it suits them, they are going to lie? So, I-I recovered at home, I did not really have too many long-lasting injuries although I do have to say that I have had my right hip replaced three times which is right near the in the entry wound of that 30-caliber rifle bullet. There has been no actual medical connection made between it but I suspected that it is connected. And then the story goes on, trying to get, trying to get accountability with Arthur Krause and the parents of those four kids dead. We tried to get accountability. And, and, and that was a tough climb because the first, the first legal gathering was the Portage County grand jury which indicted 25 students and professors and no guardsmen. In fact, I was, I was shot twice, and then I was arrested. I was indicted for fourth degree riot by the Portage County grand jury and later the charges were dropped for lack of evidence, but it gave me an understanding of what some people in America experience where they were victims of what was called Law Enforcement crime, and then they were charged with the crime themselves. So, I have a deep sympathy for, you know, for Breonna Taylor and-

SM: 49:30
Yeah. Yes.

JL: 51:09
-Michael Brown, you know, George Floyd, because to me, this is this is a story I have had a deep insight into.

SM: 51:19
When, I want to mention the bond, did you know any of the people that were wounded with you or killed before this this murder?

JL: 51:34
I did not, I did not know anyone. The only person I had a passing acquaintance with-with was Alison Krauss. Because she was the girlfriend of my mailbox partner in my dorm. Barry Levine, our-our names were alphabetical [audio cuts] box at the dorm. And so, I would see Allison and Barry almost every day and-and what I will say about Allison is she was attractive in every way. Vivacious, and smart and beautiful and involved and just really, really struck me as a beautiful person. But I did not know any others until we got together for different legal purposes years later.

SM: 52:24
Can you describe the, I guess the one thing, I have learned something from this interview? I know you were wounded. I did not know the seriousness of your wounds. As you go over the years, Joe, have you, have you had any flashbacks, do you had on that day? How has your mental and physical health been over the years?

JL: 52:49
You know, I do not really have flashbacks, like nightmares. I and I do not know, I have spoken with ant-war vets over the years a number of times. And a couple of times they pointed at me and said "PTSD!" because they've seen me cry when I talk about the incident. And-and of course I have I have huge reservoirs of emotion for the sorrow that I feel. Now that I am a parent and a grandparent for those families who lost, Allison and Jeff, Sandy and Bill that day, for no good reason. They did not do anything wrong. And-and so that that, to me is heartbreaking. But I do have, you know, very close bonds with the other families, the other eight guys who were wounded- well there was only, I think six of us left now but yeah, so I do not. As far as physical results, I think that my problems with my right hip may be related to my injuries there. And mentally, like I said, like, I do not believe the government or the media.

SM: 54:09

JL: 54:10
But I am not alone in that respect. I know.

SM: 54:14
When you, I want to flash back now. Now, obviously you went back to school, when did you go back to school to continue your education and when did you graduate?

JL: 54:28
I went back to school, and I think it was the winter of (19)71. But I never finished, I left. I was I was trying to go to school full time and work full time. I was under, under indictment waiting for trial. And I was self-medicating. And so, it was not a good, was not a good mix. It was not successful for me I-I managed to stay in school and work until the summer of (19)72. And so that was really just like a couple quarters more. And then I-I moved from Kent to Oregon where I am now.

SM: 55:17
Did you realize, you probably did the-the massive coverage of this of the murders that took place the following week, you and I- we were talking about the impact it has had on the people who were there, the students that were alive at Kent at that time, the families and so forth. Are you aware of the impact that this event had on college students and people all over the country like yours truly? The tragedy-?

JL: 55:48
Yes-yes, yes. The largest student strike in American history. And, and I know, and I know that it was a formidable time, I mean, you know, it to me, to me, of course, is much more personal. But frequently in historical movies or, or stories, or even just, you know, magazine articles, the Kent State shooting comes up as a pivotal reflection of the time and the desperation and just the, the peak of resistance to the war.

SM: 56:23
A lot of people that have written, that have written about this event, and then actually in books, too, that said that, when the tragedies at Kent State and Jackson State hit, that, then the War at Vietnam now came home to Middle America.

JL: 56:41

SM: 56:42
And that the war was going to end because of it. The a, and because there was still at that time, a lot of people that supported the war. And Nixon always had his group that, you know that, you know that they were supporting him. But it is what happened at Kent State, it just had a tremendous impact way beyond, it changed careers. And one of the things I had had to talk with Alan about because he came, and I had real good long conversations with him. And he knew I went into higher education because of the tragedy. I wanted to do my small part, as a college administrator to make sure this never happened again on a university campus. And I am saying this now for Alan, Alan. All the years that he talked when he came to West Chester University to speak, one of his ultimate goals was to get truth and justice for those who, you know, suffered because of this, but also to make sure this kind of an event never again, ever happens on a university campus. A free speech, protest, where students died expressing their free speech. So, it was-

JL: 56:59

SM: 58:00
-it is there is so-so much here. And, and, of course, you know, what Alan did all throughout the years to make sure that we never forget it as well. When you as a, as a young person, I want to question some of the things that you have already brought up because of what happened at Kent State, the qualities of distrust toward government, distrust toward the system, distrust toward leaders. There was a slogan back in the (19)60s that, that the boomers that were involved in activist in the antiwar movement, and the impact that it had on them was that they did not trust leaders. And-and, and we were talking all leaders. University presidents, politicians, ministers, rabbis, anyone in a position of leadership could not be trusted. Did that affect you that way?

JL: 59:01
You know, to me, that is an extreme point of view, and I try to be rational. And so to me, that would be like, I call it jumping to confusions and I, I have respect for leadership, but I have to understand that they are, they are working for the common good and not for personal, you know, financial or power dictates that-that just, they are trying to keep maintain their power, their influence, and, and so I do not, I would not say that I take that kind of a broad brush with all leadership. I would, I would evaluate, I would evaluate the things that a leader does and says and judged by their actions. It is more than their words. But the blanket statement that I made is true. I distrust media and government. The government lied to us about Vietnam and the media lies to us constantly about different things. But I would not say that I challenged all leadership, I was distrustful. And I always looked for like, what is the reason someone would want us to believe this way, I was questioning, I was questioning but I was not completely full of distrust for all leaders. I would not say.

SM: 1:00:25
This is important question, Joe, that I want to ask, what are the lessons of Kent State for not only, for future generations of college students? What is the lesson you want them to know? Not only from college students, that are, young people that are alive today that are yet born, because through research and scholarship at our center, we are hoping that we will find people who were going to study the (19)60s and early (19)70s, get their PhD in this area and teach the (19)60s the way it should be taught, from all points of view, conservative liberal and everything in between. What are what do you feel were the lessons of Kent State that you want to pass on to future generations?

JL: 1:01:13
I just think that there is, there is hope when-when people recognize their common ground. And I still believe in nonviolent resistance. I believe in direct action using nonviolent methods. Although it is a hard, hard slog, sometimes you get where you are going. I do not believe you can fight violence with violence, I think we need to be, we need to be peaceful and rational and, and respectful of each other, even especially those who disagree with. And it is hard. That is a, that is a hard, hard assignment. But that is what I tried to do. And as far as the overall lessons from Kent State, I-I hope that we have learned that we have to allow for dissent. We should not be attacking people who do not agree with government policies, we should be, you know, I actually, you know, remember the Nixon administration was all talking about law and order. Where most of those people were convicted felons, in the Nixon administration, and protesters at Kent State did not, you know, as far as I know, did not break any laws. I mean, we were peacefully protesting we, we did not have weapons, we did not assault people, we did not damage property that day. And so, to me, we need to have room in our, in our society, for disagreement, for peaceful disagreement. And not to quickly jump to conclusions. Like I know, I have some people I know in northwestern Oregon, who, who assume that since you know, you are kind of a lefty liberal that that you should be destroyed.

SM: 1:03:05

JL: 1:03:05
I think there should be real tolerance for-for both of us to exist in the same in the same geographic location with opposing points of view.

SM: 1:03:15
It is amazing. Yeah, that is what you said is one of the issues in America today.

JL: 1:03:20

SM: 1:03:22
You know, not listening to other points of view. I mean, it is my way or the highway, it very good observations. I want to be clear on this. Who were the villains of Kent State and who were the heroes?

JL: 1:03:39
I am not sure about the heroes. I know. The villains are Nixon and Rhodes. The heroes are the heroes are Glenn Frank, who begged students after the shooting to not confront guardsmen a second time because the guards said they would shoot again, if needed. The heroes are Glenn Frank who saved lives by doing that that day. And those-those people who are brave enough to speak the truth about Kent State, Alan Canfora and Dean Kahler, they have done enormous work by staying in the area whereas I, in (19)72, man I was gone, I am out of there. But they stayed and confronted it. And I mean, Dean, it is escapable, it is a conversation he could not avoid having. And so, they are the heroes for continuing to tell the truth about what happened that day and, and trying to avoid a recurrence of that and-and I think anyone who stands up to, stands up for the rule of law. I mean, because Nixon said he was the law and order people but really Law and Order would not have allowed the shootings at Kent State to happen in our civil trial they talked about the even the Army's rules of engagement do not allow people to turn on fire on-on agitators or protesters. The designation as the commander will point out specific targets for individual snipers to shoot at, it is not turn and fire when you when you feel like and, and the fact that the guardsmen all said they were afraid for their lives after being sequestered for 30 days is to me very questionable.

SM: 1:04:19
Right. Beyond Kent State, which is the obvious answer to this question, but is there another specific watershed event that was really important in your life? Either an event or happening or a death?

JL: 1:05:40
Yeah, there have been. My first wife was a paralegal assistant with the Kent State Trial, and I fell in love with her when I first saw her, she died of cancer in (19)91, after we were married 15 years together. But my first, my first inclination to, to answer is, when I was eight, my little brother, who was hydrocephalic, who had water on the brain, died when he was five. And the moment of, and my grandma was babysitting me because my mom and dad and nur- and aunt who was a nurse, said they were taking Peter to the doctor. And so, grandma was babysitting me that night, and I stayed up later than I was ever allowed too before. But at a certain point, a certain moment in time, I burst into tears. And I realized that that was the moment my brother died. And so, to me, the most important lesson in life I have ever learned is that we are all connected. We are all brothers connected in life through a way that we do not understand. And-and so this is carried with me from that day on. And it is, it is hard, not too hard not to respect people who you are related to. And so, I tried to, I tried to live my life with that lesson in mind. Lately, lately, political events, the-the Standing Rock protest was very important, I think, for people to stop the prostitution of our land for the benefit of profiteers. And the protection of our drinking water, I have, my career, my working career, I am retired now as of (20)13. But in my adult life, I have spent 20 years from (19)80 to (20)00, as a union president and shop steward for our public works employee’s union for the city where I live. And then from (20)00 to (20)16, I spent four, four terms on the local school board-

SM: 1:07:57

JL: 1:07:58
-administering, administering to the school districts needs from kind of a management point of view. So, to me, working people are where it is at, they are the people who make our country strong and good. And we need to respect them and give them, acknowledge the work that they do and help them however we can to be successful and happy.

SM: 1:08:19
That is really great, Joe, because that is giving back. It is giving back-

JL: 1:08:26
Well, when I got here to Northwestern Oregon, I was damaged, I was very damaged goods. And so, the people here and they, that natural beauty, helped me to recover. And so, I feel like I owe it to my community to give back and that is, that is exactly my intention is I love it here. And I want the folks to know that I will do what I can to make it a better place.

SM: 1:08:49
It is amazing, because that is what Alan did all his life was kind of is giving back-

JL: 1:08:53
Most of the guys-

SM: 1:08:54
Yeah, and Dean is all about that.

JL: 1:08:58
Most of the guys are really nice guys, you know that?

SM: 1:09:01

JL: 1:09:01
I sometimes wonder how can the, how can shooters find nine nicer guys? I mean, it is I guess there is something humbling about being shot too being, but-but yeah, I am really I am really proud to have acquaintance of mine, I call them my blood brothers. And we, we are connected in a way no one else really wants to be or can be. And so, for me that recovery, the reunions are bittersweet. They are horribly sad and-and wonderfully warm and, and welcoming because when I get together with these folks, and our supporters, our families and friends, it is just an amazing time.

SM: 1:09:50
Well, I know at one of the Kent State remembrances a few years back, you and another person who passed away were together.

JL: 1:09:59
Oh, Jim Russel.

SM: 1:09:59
Yeah Jim Russell and I am, I do not know if you remember, I took your pictures and I gave the pictures to I think Alan because they were real good close up shots. You were sitting at a panel in the auditorium there and they came out really great. And so, and I remember you were very close to him, and then the tragedy that he passed away.

JL: 1:10:20
Yeah, I convinced him to move to Oregon after our civil trial. He, he kept me sane during the civil trial, because he was a genius. He was, he had multifarious interests. And he was he was actually deeply involved in all of them. Um, and I was, I had moved to the forested hills outside of our little town in (19)72. So, in the (19)75 trial, when we were all going back to Cleveland for 14 weeks in the summer, for uh, four days a week of trial. Um, I was just out of my element as the press cameras and interviewers would follow us around the street. I was really out of my element coming from the woods, where I had been when Jim-Jim just talked to me. And he talked and he talked and he talked because he [laughs], he had all these interests. And he kept me from-from freaking out, really. And so, I feel like he saved my, saved my uh, sanity. And uh, so we became close. And then he- I invited him to move to Oregon when I came back home. And uh, after 25 years went by the local Oregon, Oregonian had an article about us, the 25th, you know, anniversary of the Kent State shootings. And after that, two professors and teachers started inviting us to come to their classes. And we were, we were very reluctant activists, Jim, especially, very reluctant. But what we found was that by telling the truth of our story, that- it kind of was cathartic, that it lightened the load on our hearts. Although I do feel it was obvious from observation that it was causing some sorrow for the students who heard us talk about the truth about Kent State. And so, we bonded that way for years. We did that at colleges and high schools around Oregon until (20)07 when Jim had a heart attack, and as he would have, as he would have designed it, had a heart attack and died in his wife's arms. At his home in Rainier, Oregon. It was a heart heartbreaking [inaudible], for me to think about him being gone, we- we had, an extremely close relationship. In many ways we were so different that we were like, uh, two poles of a magnet. And it just drew us together, we could tell the Kent State story because we had each been at different places at different times, in a way that was so thorough, and uh, we were just like, kind of walk into each other's uh, monologues smoothlessly, smoothly. And uh, and it was it was just a it was a very powerful, very powerful sort of when we told it together.

SM: 1:13:21
Well, he is, he is another one of those, of the nine. One of the good guys and why, [crosstalk]. I had- Oh man, he, was also, worked for the city- [laughs] I-I want to mention the Vietnam Memorial, you know, the whole thing happened in 1982. When Vietnam veterans came back, they were treated pretty poorly and, [crosstalk] and really poorly. No, not by me either. But, then in 1982, the wall opened and everything's changed. Now the question I really want to ask you, Jan Scruggs wrote that historic book, "The Healing of a Nation." And of course, he, he wanted to make the Vietnam Memorial, a nonpolitical entity, as a remembrance for the 58 plus 1000 who died, and are, certainly all Vietnam veterans who have served and their families. The question I want to ask you is, the Vietnam Memorial has done a great job in terms of healing amongst the veterans themselves and their families and now many, men, have seems like more Vietnam veterans are dying faster than even the World War Two veterans died from post-traumatic stress disorder but certainly Agent Orange and cancer and everything. I remember asking this to three United States senators. I asked this to Senator Eugene McCarthy, I asked this to George McGovern, and I asked this to Gaylord Nelson and it was Gaylord Nelson's response, which was the best one. But the question is, is it possible to heal, as a nation, from a war that tore us so much apart? [silence] Are you still there?

JL: 1:13:30
He was an engineer, he was, he was into the detail of [chuckles] of the radius of curbs and shit like [laughter], are you kidding me? I mean, I think, he, he annoyed the hell out of me and I think I have amused the hell out of him so, [inaudible]. So, it was the perfect relationship.

SM: 1:13:31

JL: 1:13:49
You are breaking up, Steven. Yeah, I-I kind of missed the first part.

SM: 1:15:13
Is it, is it possible to heal, have-have we healed, as a nation from the Vietnam War?

JL: 1:15:38
Oh, good question. Um, [coughs] that is a good question. I-I do not know. I-I do not know would say we have made attempts to heal, I-I, I-I do think of one thing that we have not talked about, that is a very important element to response to the war in Vietnam was the Veterans for Peace, the antiwar, that is actually where leaders, even more so than the student antiwar groups, in opposing the war in Vietnam. And I think without them, we would not have gotten to the memorial into the place where we are now. [crosstalk] But, I-I think there is, I think there is still existing divisions that go back to that time. And I am not so sure that they are only about the war, they may also be about the philosophy of governance, the approach to authority, the relationship that men have with their fathers [laughs].

SM: 1:16:37

JL: 1:16:38
You know, I-I think we should have learned to be more forgiving and more compassionate, but I am not sure that all of us have. [crosstalk] The other thing I would add, as you talk about the fifty-eight thousand, lives that were sacrificed, we also have to remember the 3 million-

SM: 1:16:57
You are right.

JL: 1:16:58
-Asians who,

SM: 1:16:58
Yes. Mhm. Right. Yeah, I-. Mhm. Yes, you are darn right [crosstalk]. Yes. Yes. Because, when you go down to the Vietnam Memorial, and um, you know, it is not only seeing the faces of those who-who are no longer with us who served their nation, but it is also the 3 million who died, the Vietnamese themselves. I-I know that from working in a university and advising the Asian American organization, of which most of them were Vietnamese students, whose parents were both people and survived, on the boats to go to certain islands. And then of course, they ended up meeting, they fell in love. And a lot of the Vietnamese have done very well in this nation. And, but a lot of them are from the boat people that survived that war, just survived. And, I know President Bush in 1989, you may remember this, said "The Vietnam syndrome is over." Remember when he said that? And uh, and-and I said, he has, he has got to be kidding me. Because it kind of gets into what they call, "The culture wars." And the culture wars from the (19)60s are still happening right now in the year 2021.

JL: 1:16:59
-who died. Well, you know, I belong to a, an internet, internet, message group that is called, "Full Disclosure." And it was, it was, it was started a couple years ago, maybe more than a couple of years ago, to correct the historical revisionism: that was trying to make it sound like, Vietnam was a glorious war. And, these are mostly veterans, their outspoken antiwar veterans, who, share emails, you know, not every day, but frequently, with their comments about the way things are going now. And-and some of them I-I have met, a great group of antiwar vets in the Portland area similar so my best friends who I hear from pretty often and, and they are still active in doing what they did and opposing war and telling the truth of war to, to people who will listen, students and the public whenever they can. And we went on some speaking tours with them, Russell and I and, and it was very moving. It was very moving. One of this, one of these friends is a, was a Vietnam era medic, a combat medic, and-and he-he has a vague resemblance to Dana Carvey, and [crosstalk] his speech is so honest that he will have you laughing, and then crying within 20 minutes of telling his story about, uh-

SM: 1:19:46

JL: 1:19:46
-about-about his experiences and those of the-the guys the young men around him, who you know, who were wounded and dying and some of them dead and, it has just been uh, hm. I-I am very grateful for their friendship, let me say that. I-I have met some guys whose-whose friendship means a great deal to me because they support, they support, our Kent State experience and a motivation we had that time. So, it means a lot to me.

SM: 1:20:20
Oh really? Wow. Mhm. The, we only got a couple more questions here. One of them is, as you as we were in, especially the front edge boomers when they were in junior high school, there were some major events that happened. And I would like to know your thoughts on what happened in, on November 22nd of (19)63, where were you when JFK was killed?

JL: 1:20:41
I was in seventh grade, I was seventh grade, in Mrs. Lakely's class and our [inaudible] Ohio at St. Francis De Sales. School. And of course, since it was a Catholic school, and this was our first Catholic president, everybody was heartbroken. It was, it was just a tragic, tragic event. And of course, in (19)68, then we lost RFK and Martin Luther King. And it seemed like we had entered a period of history where assassination was going to be the rule rather than the exception. And that was damn frightening, I think for us.

SM: 1:21:08
Yes-yes. Right. And even Malcolm X got killed in (19)65.

JL: 1:21:21

SM: 1:21:21
Yeah-yeah. Oh, this is really well addressed in Tom Grace's books. He calls it, "The Long Sixties." And-and I think there is a connection between the, late (19)50s, labor movement and the early (19)70s, repression, government repression that kind of tamped down the-the, mobilization of-of antigovernment activity. So, I guess, I would guess, late, late (19)50s and early (19)70s kind of really defined something like the (19)60s. But, um, yeah, I-I do not know I-I am not a very well, I am not a very learned person I have going on as I have learned through life, but not through, formal education. So, I-I do not really know. You know, and, and, of course, of course, we all know that Gandhi, was murdered as well, way before, but he was a role model for Dr. King. It is amazing that, you know, you met-, you mentioned about why did the nine might in the four, who were killed, cannot stay in the nine who are wounded. Why did it happen to good people like this? Well, you know, same thing you can say for politicians who a lot of people believe we are doing good deeds for others, and then others did not like them. So, let us eliminate them. So, it is kind of, that is part of the experience of, I think of the boomer generation-generation as well. I got two more questions. This question is when do you think the (19)60s began? And when do you think it ended? If it did? You know, that the personalities of the, when you look at the, your life, from when you were young and now older, as a boomer, who were the personalities that you just simply admired? And, and then the personalities that you did not admire?

JL: 1:23:32
Well, I loved my grandma. My grandma was from Slovakia. She always stood up straight. She always spoke clearly. She was a very well informed, she was a democratic precinct woman and would be at a voting ballot place every, every election. She was kind and sweet. And I know she, she was very quiet about those things that troubled her. And as far as someone to [silence] look up to, I think it would be Nixon. People with ulterior motives who would lie out the side of their mouth to get what they wanted. That was not really legitimate. You know, he-he got into politics by answering a one ad by some California businessman who wanted to voice for them in the, in the legislature in California. So, he was like a prostitute from the beginning, I think. Jagger Hoover, you know, he was a brutal, brutal, and evil person. And the more we know about him, the less I like him. He, he caused suffering and death. You know, um, I had I had the opportunity at one of the Kent State commemoration is to meet Bobby Seale, who, who I admire I mean, he was at the forefront of the Black Panther Party when, they rose up and challenged the government with the rifles on the steps of the courthouse in Sacramento, which is brilliant and also fearful, [laughs] fearful tactic. But, you know, he was not perfect, he-he did have some, he did have some shortcomings, but he was faced with an unbelievable situation that Black Panthers and that time and, and I guess I also looked up to people who I met like Reverend John Adams, he was a minister for the board of Church and Society, the United Methodist Church, he was like a chaplain for us during our Kent State Civil Trial, as well as a, the only white man to cross the lines in (19)75, between the FBI and the occupants' occupiers at Wounded Knee. So, to me, he is like a chaplain for, for causes that were important. I do not know. I am happy to have the friends I have, who support me and who I support, and, I feel very lucky to be where I am.

SM: 1:26:09
And how important was the music of the (19)60s and early (19)70s to you?

JL: 1:26:15
Oh critical, oh critical.

SM: 1:26:17
-during, during everything?

JL: 1:26:18
-It was life, music of the music then, and the lyrics. I mean, they are they define, to a large extent they define, define those moments more than anything else.

SM: 1:26:33
Yeah, they were they were something that is for sure. And-and are there any? Uh, I only got-finishing this up. Um, the movies, there have been many movies that have come out trying to describe the (19)60s or the Vietnam War. What are the movies that you really, think are good ones to watch? If you want to try to understand the era when the Boomers were young?

JL: 1:27:02
I do not know. My friend, my combat veteran friend, says that, uh, "Platoon," was the most realistic one that he thought for being in combat. I do not know. I do not know if there is movies, if a movie has-has captured, has captured the spirit yet. I-um, yeah, I am not. I do not have a really great memory anyway. So, I do not know. I cannot answer that.

SM: 1:27:32
I will end with this. You know, when-when I asked that question about when do the (19)60s end, everybody has their own kind of answers. But to me when (19)73 hit, I do not know, you probably remember this point, it probably happened at Kent State as well. It is when the people were stripping. Remember that started happening again. They were running all over the campus nude and all that other stuff. I-I, I [crosstalk] was at Ohio, I was in my first job at Ohio University. And I got a call from Jones graduate tower on the Ohio State campus where I lived when I was a graduate student. And they said, Steve, you got to come back to campus, why? The (19)60s are over. I said, "What?" Just come back to the campus for Friday night and I will explain. I drove back to Jones tower. I read the paper that that that people in different residence halls are going to strip off and run across campus. They were feeling free. [laughs] And they did not care about anything political. And, uh, so I go behind the Ohio State Law Library and go and behold, they were doing the Rockettes [laughs]. Some-some women are coming out doing Rockettes things nude and then the guts the guys were coming out wherever they were. And then, then all of a sudden, people were taking their clothes off and run across campus. And then they said, come the next day, because they were going to run down High Street. And so, it was a weekend. So, I came to High Street sat at the corner of Mercian auditorium [laughs]. And here they come [laughs].

JL: 1:29:03

SM: 1:29:04
And I and I said, and I said to myself, "This, is this the end of the (19)60s?" [laughs] "Does this mean? [crosstalk] that fun, has now returned to the college campus?" [crosstalk] So I-I do not you know, I have always, I have mentioned that I remember I mentioned that to Rodney Davis and he laughed. And uh, when he said there was some sense of truce there because it was kind of people were going into communes at that time. They were, kind of, it was, -a it was a long story. I want to, and I want to thank you very much for spending this time with me. Yeah, I have learned a lot.

JL: 1:29:38

SM: 1:29:38
-for you and, uh, and my admiration for you is always, higher, now it is even higher. You know, I, I will be there at the remembrance event this next year. I hope you are there because I am I am going to come back. I have to be there for Alan because I think they are going to do some things for him. But, are there any final thoughts, that you would like to mention that you feel, that you did not say? Anything in connection with your-?

JL: 1:30:03
Oh, no. [laughs] Yeah, I do not know. [laughs] Sure. Well, you know, I have been to most of the commemorations I have missed a few. But usually someone will come up to me and they will say, and they will find, after they find out who I am and my connection, my experience, they will come up to me and they will say, "This is my first time back," and then they will start to cry. And so, what I often say to people is, you did not have to be shot, to be wounded at Kent State on May 4th (19)70. In fact, I think the whole country, the whole country had a wound that day.

SM: 1:30:07
I agree.

JL: 1:30:35
And I think we are all still trying to heal from it.

SM: 1:30:41
That-That is, what a way to end the interview. Thank you very much, Joe.

JL: 1:30:46
Thank you, Steven, for what you do.

SM: 1:30:47
Thank you. And I will make sure that the university will send this, um this CD, it will be on your CD, it will be sent to you once they digitize it. For before it is finally approved.

JL: 1:31:00
And, uh send me a link to look at the other interviews.

SM: 1:31:03
I will do so.

JL: 1:31:04
if there is a way you can do that alright, thanks.

SM: 1:31:05
Yeah, I will do that- when I get [inaudible] I meant, um, I am-yep. Thank you very much. Be safe, stay healthy. And keep doing what you are doing.

JL: 1:31:15
All right. You too, Stephen. Thank you.

SM: 1:31:17
Have a great day. Bye now.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview

19 November 2019


Stephen McKiernan


Joseph Lewis

Biographical Text

Joseph Lewis, originally from Massillon, Ohio, is a survivor of the Kent State shootings. Lewis was an 18-year-old freshman, studying pre-professional social work when he was shot while attending the student protest rally in 1970. He quit school in 1972 and moved to Oregon, where he has resided ever since. Lewis retired from the Scappoose, Oregon Public Works Department in 2013 as supervisor of the water treatment plant. He also served 16 years on the Scappoose Board of Education.





Digital Publisher

Binghamton University Libraries

Digital Format


Material Type


Interview Format


Rights Statement

Many items in our digital collections are copyrighted. If you want to reuse any material in our collection you must seek permission, or decide if your purpose can qualify as fair use under the U.S. Copyright Law Section 107. If you think copyright or privacy has been violated, the University Libraries will investigate the issue. Please see our take down policy. If using any materials in this online digital collection for educational or research purposes, please cite accordingly.


Cleveland; Boomer generation; Civil Rights Movement; 1960s; Woodstock generation; College campus; President Nixon; Vietnam War; Student activism; Kent State shooting; Trust.


Joseph Lewis.jpeg

Item Information

About this Collection

Collection Description

Stephen McKiernan's collection of interviews includes more than two hundred interviews with prominent figures of the 1960s, which were collected between the mid-1990s and 2010s. The collection provides narratives of people who were actively involved in or witnessed events in the 1960s, an era which spurred profound cultural and… More

Link to Collection Overview

Link to Browse Collection Items


“Interview with Joseph Lewis,” Digital Collections, accessed May 28, 2024,