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Interview with Dr. Thomas Grace

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McKiernan Interviews
Interview with: Thomas Grace
Interviewed by: Stephen McKiernan
Transcriber: Eden Lowinger
Date of interview: 26 January 2022

(Start of Interview)

SM: 00:03
Again, Tom, thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview. I would like to start out like I normally do with all my interviews, if you could kind of describe your early years before college, where you grew up, your parents background, some of your early adventures or any major happenings that kind of sent you in a different direction, life's path, your high school years. What was it like in those early years?

TG: 00:31
Well, I was born five years after the war, March 2nd, (19)50. And I knew none of this at the time. But we were also just a few months away from the start of another war in Korea in June of (19)50. When I was born, I was the oldest of, as it turned out to be four children. The parents of Thomas V Grace, V as in Victor, and my mother, actually, her name was Helen Collette. And she did not like that name, Helen. So she dropped out or used to just sign her name H. Colette Grace. She is a Binghamton native; my father was a Syracuse native. They met at Syracuse University after the war, and I think in a biology class and were married (19)49 and I came along in 1950. He was the son of a disabled railroad worker, and an English teacher who was, who seldom taught. That was on my father's side, my mother's side, her parents were both immigrants from Slovakia. And he had worked on the railroad and her mother had been a homemaker in Binghamton. They, they went through, of course, the travails of the Great Depression, which was harder on my father's family than it was on my mother's. Binghamton seemed; they had a kind of a welfare capitalism that was practiced in Binghamton with a lot of the major industries there. They did not seem to have the unemployment that Syracuse did. And I mentioned this because it had a profound effect on my father's political values. He and his siblings and his parents saw the New Deal policies as having saved their family, providing work for his older brothers in the Civilian Conservation Corps. distributing free food on Saturdays, where they would go down and stand in line, pick up the free food. And like, like we see so common today, although now people just drive up in their cars to pick it up. But then you stood in line, there was a welfare caseworker that came to the house that would inspect my father's clothes to see how they were holding up and to see if there was enough coal in the bin. But they did not, they, the only home that they had they lost because they could not, could not keep up with the payments and the banks failed. So, whatever modest savings they had, they lost. And he just, oh, and-and after they lost the house, they-they wound up having to move all the time, because either the rents would go up and they could not make the rent, and then they would have to try to find some other place to live. So he actually lived all of his life in Syracuse. But while he was growing up, up until the time he was 18, I think they moved 11 times. Always on the south side of Syracuse, which was kind of a Irish American, African American neighborhood. He seemed to have good relationships with African Americans, went to an African American dentist, and then worked on the railroad while he was putting himself through school. He was 4F for the draft, his older brother did-did serve, was missing in action and was able to get back home okay. The other brother was also 4F as well. So he was putting himself through school working on the railroad. And you got to know a lot of the porters, they are known as red caps. And they were, that was the principal African American union in the country, A. Philip Randolph Union.

SM: 04:43

TG: 04:43
And they he learned a lot from them. I remember a few years before he died, I asked him how he came to have such a deep and fairly profound understanding of the questions of race in the United States when, when so few white people seem to possess that, because he was not coming at it from an ideological perspective. He was coming at it from a class perspective, which, of course, has an ideology. But he did not, he did not. He was not an ideologue in any way. Although he was a partisan New Dealer. And asking him about this experience 50 years later, he proceeded to give me the name, so about half a dozen of these guys that he had worked with. And he had not seen them for 50 years. So, it is obvious that those relationships were meaningful to him-

SM: 05:38
Wow, yes.

TG: 05:38
-if you can, if he could remember all of that information all those years later. My mother was not, she was more of an emotional thinker, my father was, he was guided more by his intellect. They too suffered during the war, her brother was killed on, on Iwo Jima on George Washington's birthday in 1945. So you know, one time there was an M.I.A. in the family and another who had been killed. But as they said, my father's oldest brother was able to get back home, his pilot, his plane went down over China when they were flying on gasoline from India and China, flying over an area called Hump. So, I grew up with all these stories. I know, this is a long digression that I just gave you. But I grew up with a lot of these stories, and they kind of formed me. I also learned when I was about 10, or 11 years of age from my grandmother, this is my father's mother who I was close to, who had been the English teacher, that we had two of our ancestors who fought in the American Civil War. And I was coming of age during the Civil War Centennial, (19)61, (18)61. And, of course, the Civil Rights Movement was taking off. So, I am trying to figure out why the country could fight a war against slavery 100 years before, and we have all these unfinished issues. It did not, did not make a whole lot of sense to me as a preteen and adolescence. So, it is one of the things that caused me to start reading. And I mean, it was not until college that I really started to figure all this out. But these were things that I remember that puzzled me. And to some extent, my father could help me understand it, but he did not have a degree in history either. So it takes a lot of study to figure this out, as you know. So we grew up in a working class Italian American neighborhood, although no one in our family. My father was Irish, my mother was Slovak, so we did not have that background. But in other respects, and despite the fact that both my parents had gone to college, that was a rarity in our neighborhood, I think we were the only family on the block, the whole blocks that, where anyone not only graduated from college, but had attended college. I went to a Catholic grammar school, oddly called St. St. Daniel's school, SDS for short.

SM: 07:07
Yes. Wow. [chuckles]

TG: 08:10
Those initials would take on a new meaning once I got to college.

SM: 08:12

TG: 08:13
And then we did not have high school, in our neighborhoods. So the kids went all over the city to different places. So my parents selected a Catholic all Boys High School, it was college preparatory, it was about 10, 12 miles away. I would take a bus there every day. I did not really care for that experience at all. Although I had had all my all my schooling to that point had been in parochial schools. And I just wanted by the time I got to college, I wanted to do something different. I felt like I wanted to get away. You asked me about remarkable experiences growing up. I do not really think I had any I had a pretty ordinary childhood, I was very devoted to the game of baseball, which I still am today. I was a kid of modest talent, though, in terms of playing the game. But that did not dim my enthusiasm. And I went to the high school, as I told you and my father at that point had, by the time I was starting to get ready for college, he was a social services administrator at a facility that cared for the developmentally disabled in Syracuse and called the Syracuse [inaudible] school. And there was a great shortage of social workers in the country at the time. So, the federal government had a policy that if someone was had graduated from college that did not have a background, irrespective of what their background had been, they could have been a music major, they could have been a Phys Ed teacher, they could have been a sociology major, which would have been fine. Whatever their background, if they took a job up, working in social services. And that and applied, had applied and been accepted for a master's program in social work, then the federal government would, would pay for, for their two years of schooling with the understanding that they would return to their former place of employment over the summer, and then remain there for five years. And then the loan would be complete, or they, they would not have to pay back the cost of their schooling. So there was a guy such as that, that my father had hired who was a recent graduate of Kent State. So he told me about the school and that put it on my radar.

SM: 10:43
Oh, all right.

TG: 10:44
Three other places where I also wanted to study Civil War history, because I looked over the college catalogs, you know, when they came to get a sense of what their history departments were like, and Kent State was a large school, which I wanted to go to, it was, it was called coeducational. And it was the closest of the four schools that I had applied to. So that is where I went.

SM: 11:11
It is interesting, when you talked about your father. You know, when you study the life of Dr. King, and what he went through in his 39 years, you know, he certainly fighting injustice and things like that, but he has brought up the whole issue of class, and poverty and all these other things. And so, he was often criticized for not just concentrating on the race issue, but on class issues. So your father was, well, he was a person that kind of was like Dr. King in a way. I-I, I would like to ask you this: did you ever feel during your first 18 years or even into your college years, that you belonged to a generation that was never before, it was, it was considered very unique. I can remember going to college right here at Binghamton, and I have talked with so many friends and they felt that there was this feeling that this youth of today, this 74 million that came out after World War Two, the sons and daughters of the boomer gen of the World War Two generation, were different. Especially the front edge boomers, those first 10 years between the- born between (19)60, excuse me, (19)46 and (19)57. Did you did you feel when you were young that you were part of something that was different and unique when you were, as a youth as a person, [inaudible] your peers?

TG: 12:41
I do, I do not recall it. And oldest children are often the inheritors of tradition. And in that regard, I was no exception. And I took an interest in what had gone before. What, what my parents had been through, and I think may have failed to mention that my mother was a Binghamton native. No, I did not, I did mention that-

SM: 13:09

TG: 13:11
-to the welfare capitalism that was practiced by the industries. But I was interested in what their lives had been like. And I was I was taken by the military experiences of men on both sides of my family and then on my ancestors. So, I was I was, I think through that prism of familial experience. I became interested in my own family's role and the development of the history of the country. And certainly learning that about my ancestors who had fought and both of them died in civil war. We recently discovered a third who did survive, he was with he was in the famous march through Georgia with Sherman. He was the only one of the three ancestors in the civil war that survived the experience. But all of those things were very formative to me. And in other respects, the things that I was interested in besides history and reading, you know, and just playing with my friends, was baseball. Play, I would play that all spring summer and fall. Just go down to the playground, there would be a bunch of guys there, we would choose up teams and you know, I played little league as well, but I played baseball from the time that I was about eight. I did have, when you asked before about adventures, but the biggest calamity that befell me when I was the young person is that I had something wrong with my hip, it was called a Legg Perthes, which my father had as well. And I believe it is not an inherited or genetic problem. But they had caused me to have to be in traction for a year. So you know, I got through with, with tutors. And when I, at the school I had to be on crutches for about a year while my leg was put in this kind of harness to keep some pressure off of it. So yeah, that was that was that was, that was something I had to kind of learn to get through, kids are pretty resilient. Not, and I was and I got by that. But I only mentioned that because I otherwise would have started playing baseball even sooner than I did. But as it turns out, I was not able to start playing until I was eight, because of this Legg Perthes, which kind of sidelined me for about two years. But in terms of the generational I remember thinking that maybe when I, it was in my very late teens, and start of college, because there were certainly other people that were saying that and-and there were a lot of stories about the effect of the baby boomer generation and-and then there was Kennedy's oration at his inauguration.

SM: 16:10

TG: 16:11
So, I did feel in that respect, and is I think, a little further in response to your question that, that we did have an obligation, but I did not see myself as part of a, being so much special is I did carrying on a continuity that other people had carried before me. We all have a role to play here. And it is our, you know, it is, it is our time now.

SM: 16:41

TG: 16:41
But I did not see ourselves as separate and apart and distinct and better, any of that kind of stuff.

SM: 16:51
Did you-?

TG: 16:51
Later-later, I did feel that because so many people had had a formative experience by being part of the Civil Rights and anti-war movements, that that that generation would ultimately make its own mark and affect the generations that came after us. But that clearly did not happen. And I thought for maybe about when I got into my 30s or so that that still might occur. But then I realized that in some respects, we were different from those who went before us, and rather different from those who came after us.

SM: 16:52

TG: 16:55
And even our own generation. There was there was a generational divide within the baby boomers.

SM: 17:43
I agree.

TG: 17:44
There were people who had experiences that caused them to become left wing and-and sympathetic to people of color, and then later gender differences, et cetera, et cetera. But there were an awful lot of people who are born in the late (19)40s and (19)50s that do not think that way and seldom did. They may have adopted some of the cultural trappings of it, that our generation won the cultural war and lost the political and economic one.

SM: 18:18
Well, you raised something, a question I did not even have here, the young Americans for freedom, which was a conservative organization during the Vietnam War. When I spoke to Dr. Harry, Dr. Edwards, Lee Edwards, in Washington, DC, he talked about the fact that when all the books are written on the (19)60s, what is left out are the conservative antiwar activists, and-

TG: 18:44
Well, there have been books dedicated to that subject.

SM: 18:47
Right. But the key thing I wanted to ask is that you brought up the fact that the continuity of understanding the generation that preceded you, what your parents did, and your responsibility to carry on, there was that term that we heard all the time that there was a big generation gap going on. Was there any generation gap going on within your family over what was happening in the (19)60s, especially the antiwar protests and civil rights and all the other movements? Was, was there any divisions I call it divisions within the family and, and divisions with your peers?

TG: 19:26
I do not remember divisions really with-with my peers, the-the tension in our household was over the length of my hair. Not-not my politics, and I wanted to have longer hair and my father insisted that I keep it you know, kind of like, what they used to refer to as a Princeton haircut. So I was, there was always a big issue. I would go to the barber, and I would come home, and he would say, "You [inaudible] you did not cut off you know, you got to go." You know, so went through all of that. But in terms of my politics, I really inherited my-my father's politics. He did not really think a whole lot about the international situation. He was not, he was not pro- I would not say that he was pro-war. He was not, he was not all that anti-war. I do remember what a conversation that I have had with him, though that may help to answer your question. I remember saying to him, "Dad, I understand that the Black people have it really bad in this country." And I may, may or may not have used the word "oppressed," for a long time. But I understand now that a lot of them in this group SNCC, do not want to go into the service. And if they want to be part of this country, then they should help to defend it. That, that is how, so I had kind of a Cold War mentality, you might say, I did not really fully understand what Vietnam was about, and turn against the war, until I had been in school at Kent State for about five or six months. And that did not really come, that was complicated. I addressed it in the book that I wrote on Kent State.

SM: 19:48
Right. [laughs] What a great book you wrote too.

TG: 21:22
Well, thank you.

SM: 21:23
The best book ever written on Kent State.

TG: 21:25
Well, I appreciate you saying that, Steve. I worked at it a long time. So I always tell people, I better get it right when I spent over 10 years working on it. But I remember saying that to my father, and he looked at me and he said, "You know, they should be the last people to go to Vietnam," he said, "The country has done the least for them, that continues to do the least for them." He may have pointed out the disproportionate level of casualties that African Americans suffered during the first couple of years in the war. It was up in I think, in that high teens or low 20s, when they only represented about maybe 12, 13 percent of the population. He said, he said, "Let the rich kids' sons fight this war." He always look, his attitude was that a lot of white people are poor. Almost all Black people are poor. We, we need to band together to fight the rich that oppress us all. That was that was kind of his mentality. Again, he was not an ideologue, he did not, if he ever read anything about Karl Marx, I would be astonished. Because he never had those, he never came in contact with anybody that ever would have introduced him, you know, to those kinds of ideas. But what he did have was this "School of Hard Knocks" that he did, he grew up in poor and even though when he went to college, he always had that kind of class edge to him. And if he heard people putting down poor people, oh it used to send him off, really-really made him angry. Because he had been poor, he-he knew what it was like to-to, to-to endure, those, they are often invisible injuries. But I think he experienced them growing up and it never left him.

SM: 23:34
I am going to ask this question, [inaudible], there is kind of divided into four areas, but it is just your overall perceptions of an era during the time that boomers have been alive. When you describe the era (19)45 to (19)60, what comes to mind in your view?

TG: 23:53
Well, a lot of things I remember watching, used to be a program on television called the 20th century. And it was usually devoted to World War Two. So I watched, I remember watching that a lot. I remember as a little boy being taken down to the train station, when my cousin Dick was, he was in his uniform. And he was leaving for service during the Korean War, but he was being sent to Germany. But there was this sense. I could feel this like tension and unease when we were seeing him off at the train station like this is not good, that he is about to be departing on something that might be bad for the family. And, of course, he had a pretty ordinary experience in Germany. You know, nothing bad happened to him there. But when you are three or four and you at best, have an imperfect understanding of what is going on, I remember that that had quite an impact on me. I remember seeing President- well then Senator Kennedy, in a motorcade in Syracuse, New York, and this probably would have been in this springtime, of (19)60. And our family was really taken up with, with his candidacy. My father saw it as an opportunity for the, for Irish Catholic Americans to, to break through in a country that had been dominated by white Protestants. And, you know, we were just absolutely thrilled when-when he was when he was elected. We are going to keep this before (19)60?

SM: 25:49
Yeah, I am done. The next the next part of this question is when you describe the era of (19)60 to (19)75 what comes to mind? And I, I want to state that this center here at what at Binghamton University, is dedicated to the (19)60s to the (19)75 era.

TG: 26:06
Okay. Well, certainly, the presidential assassination was just a horrible, horrible event. It just, it just plunged our, the whole country but our family in particular, I do not think the TV was off for, you know, as long as we were awake for that bet that weekend of November 22, of (19)63. And I remember, one of the things that kind of helped lift that mood, a number of months later, when the English invasion occurred, and the Beatles just exploded. And if I felt like kind of a generational pulse, it was, we were just like- I remember my sister and I, my sister is about slightly less than two years younger than I am- Irish twins, as it were. We were both like, very taken with the Beatles. And I started like buying a lot of rock'n'roll albums. So I remember that, watched a lot of television as a kid, a lot of western movies. One author refers to it as the victory culture that we grew up with. And I certainly grew up with that as well. But I, I did pay a lot of attention to Civil Rights. I remember the horrible scenes of the Children's Crusade in Birmingham, in the spring of (19)63. That, of course, occurred months before the Kennedy assassination. I remember watching King's, some of King's speech in (19)63. And in the summer of (19)64, I remember the Civil Rights workers, quote, unquote, disappearing and Mississippi, and the efforts that President Johnson, then President Johnson was making to get the civil rights legislation passed. And I will add as a parenthetical here, that when I started graduate school in social work, I had a professor by the name of Fred Newton. And Fred's first job in social work was to take the position that Andrew Shriner, Shriner had, I am mispronouncing his name but-

SM: 26:56
Right, (19)64. Schwerner.

TG: 28:36
Schwerner, Schwerner, thank you. Schwerner had held in New York. And, and that was stunning to me. At the time, I was about 23 when I when I learned this, but I had paid close attention to all of those developments. You and also in the summer of (19)64, President Johnson came to Syracuse, New York to dedicate the Newhouse School of Communication. And that was right around the time of the Gulf, Gulf of Tonkin incident. In fact, I think he was flying back to Washington to give his joint address or give his address to the joint houses of Congress. So the speech that he gave in Syracuse was kind of like a dress rehearsal for that. And I was, I think that was one of the things that had an adverse effect on my understanding of the war in Vietnam, because I saw Johnson as carrying on Kennedy's legacy. And here he was speaking so forcefully about the war in Vietnam, which I again, imperfectly-imperfectly understood, in fact I understood it very poorly, to be very blunt about it. And even though I read Newsweek magazine on a weekly basis, whenever it came to the house and looked at photos in Life magazine, we did, we did get a lot of magazines and newspapers in the house. So I had a rich childhood in that respect. I understood the military aspect of the Vietnam War, but I did not understand the political aspect of it. So that had a deleterious effect on my political understanding of Vietnam, until I got to college-

SM: 28:47
Wow. Right.

TG: 29:02
-and met some people who-who had fought in the war and other people who knew a lot about the history of French colonialism. And all-all of those things, helped open my- those experiences and those encounters with people helped open my eyes to what the Vietnam War was all about. Let us see, I mentioned the cultural and musical aspects of the (19)60s I, I did develop an affinity for rhythm and blues and rock and roll and, and blues music. So I started to, I had quite a record collection by the time I started Kent. Of course, then there was the experience of the (19)70s shootings. When, by the time Cambodia was invaded, I was I had been very, very deeply involved in the Vietnam War protest movement, both on the campus and attending demonstrations as far west as Chicago, up to Cleveland, which was about 35 miles to, from Kent. And had been to Washington DC, for several antiwar protests by the time Cambodia was invaded. I also had a roommate at Kent State, whose name was Alan Canfora, who I believe you interviewed as well.

SM: 32:02
Oh, Alan is the best.

TG: 32:03
And he, by being a year older than me, and much bolder, I tend to be a reticent individual, somewhat introverted. Introversion, I am sure does not come out in the course of an interview, because I am discussing things with a fellow, or my life with a fellow historian, I know how to impose chronological order on one's past. So, the introversion really does not come out. But Alan was, [phone buzzes] was a very extroverted individual, who is also a very bold individual. In fact, I think it is not too much to say that he was a truly audacious person. So it was impossible not to become immersed in what was going on at that time, when you had a person who had views that were similar, but was so willing to take action on what he believed. And he also came from a family that, in many respects, was a carbon copy of my own. While neither one of his parents went to college, his-his father had been a union, a union leader, and a very partisan, ardent Democrat. His mother had been a nurse, like my own mother, although she her training as a nurse came in the United States Army, whereas my mother's was, you know she, she got her training at Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University. And we, at that point, we were both against the war in Vietnam. And then, and Alan was also a year older than I was, and that it does not seem like a big difference. But there is a major difference between someone who is just starting college, someone already been in college for a year.

SM: 32:11
Right, I agree.

TG: 32:46
So, in, in a lot of ways he was he was kind of like my older, older, slightly older brother. And if, and if he, if he was the captain, I was his first mate.

SM: 34:12
Yeah, very well said, I miss him tremendously. And, you know, I only saw him once a year when I come to the, to the remembrance events, but knowing that I will never see him again really upsets me. Because we always had some really good conversations. Since we are talking about Kent State now, I was going to ask this later on, but I got a lot of different questions outside of Kent State, but I want, since we are in it right now, could you talk about the atmosphere at the campus upon arrival there as a brand-new student? Did you sense right away that this was a lot different than any of my experiences before, that during those first five months on campus leading up to the terrible tragedy at the end of the year?

TG: 35:01
Well, I started in the fall of (19)68. So, it was right after the Democratic Convention, which I have watched on television, and was horrifying, you know, to see people beaten that way. I was not necessarily in sympathy with what they were doing but it was appalling what the police did to the demonstrators there. And so that that was fresh in my mind, because that was the end of August, and we, Kent was on a quarter system. So we were starting school in late September. So it was approximately a month later. In fact, it was exactly a month later, I think. So we took, my father and I took the long drive out there, he dropped me off in the dorm, brought all my records in, and Alan may have told you the story. But I was I was playing John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. And I have been playing Cream. And he could hear this music from a couple of rooms down the hall. So he came down to see who was playing the music and came in and introduced himself. And that is how we-we met, and we became fast friends. And, and soon, we were doing everything together. So I remember that as being an important experience. And I also had a friend that I met during the summer orientation, who was from Cleveland, his name was Jimmy. And I introduced him to Alan, so three of us became friends. And that friendship only deepened over the course of the year, although we did not see him as much because he did not live in the dorm, he lived off campus. In terms of the wider campus, I mean, it was it was nice going to school with girls, for the first time since I had been 13, or 14. And I did not really have that much of an interest in girls when I was when I was, you know, in my very early teens, but I had girlfriends in high school, of course and all. So that was really nice. And I was enjoying the classes that I took, particularly the history and political science classes. And the English classes, I was a double major in history and political science and English. I remember two political experiences. SDS held a meeting soon after the start of the fall quarter. And I went to that it was very well attended. There were a lot of people that were still juiced up from the Democratic convention. And there were probably 12, 15 of the people who had been there and experienced, some of them and experience that violence firsthand, had been locked up and threatened with their lives in the police station. So it was, it had been a significant emotional experience for the people who went there. And they understandably enough, emerged as the leaders of the chapter. But once they started talking about New Left ideology, I did not really get that I did not really understand at all. And I do not think I stayed for the entire meeting because I eventually became bored with it, because it did not resonate enough with me. Shortly thereafter, with Ohio being such a political battleground, I had the opportunity to hear someone speak on the campus who was there on behalf of the Humphrey campaign. And it was the first time in my life that I ever heard an intellectual speak, it was Carey McWilliams. And I thought to myself, what a privilege it is to hear a man have such rich experience and such, possesses such a towering intellect speak. And I said to myself, this is the kind of experience that I want to have more of as a college student. And I was impressed too with how he handled a person who had been beaten in the streets of Chicago, who spoke against the Democrats and-and Hubert Humphrey. The, McWilliams was sympathetic to what the man had to say. But he also said that all of the different, despite all the differences that have emerged, and have fractured the party, we have to come together against the person who is really a threat to the to our entire order that we have, that we have come to know since the since the Depression and World War Two and that is the New Deal and everything that it is done for the American people. That made sense to me, you know, to put all of that in perspective. So I became involved with the Humphrey campaign, I went to a blood bank and gave a pint of blood and then to use the $25 that I was given and I donated that to the Humphrey campaign. I got to hear the vice president speak and shake his hand about a week before the presidential election, because, of course, Ohio is being so sharply contested. And I also, working with a political science professor, went door to door for Humphrey in some of the working class neighborhoods in Akron to try to get out to vote for him. You know, I had some tough experiences there, but I, you know, people threatening me, you know, you run into lawless people here and there. But, you know, I, it was unnerving, but I stayed with it. And, and then Nixon also came to Northeast Ohio. And along with Alan Canfora, I went there to protest against him with the Young Democrats. I was a member of the Young Democrats, I was not a member of SDS. But SDS showed up in large numbers there, there was a very small number of Young Democrats, and they disrupted Nixon's talk. So, Alan, I remember him saying, "Tom Grace," he said, "Let us go out with those guys." So, we left the Young Democrats, and we spent the rest of the Nixon speech with-with the SDS who are just yelling and screaming, protesting Nixon. And Time Magazine said it was the most significant disruption of Nixon campaign event during the entire campaign.

SM: 40:22

TG: 40:34
So-so I, you know, I had a lot of rich, excuse me, I had a lot of rich experiences, packed into a few short months. And that only takes us up till you know, the presidential election, which I watched and was still in doubt when I went to bed that night. Of course the next day we learned, you know, the outcome. And within a couple of weeks after that, the Oakland Police Department came to Kent State to recruit for their police force. This is the same police force that shot and wounded Eldridge Cleaver and killed 17 year old Bobby Hutton, around the same time as the King assassination was completely overshadowed, of course by the King assassination. But SDS and the Black United Students banded together and blocked the recruiting, which created this massive crisis on the campus because the university administration said that they would be moving to sanction all the people who participated and perhaps expel them from school. Alan had gone into the area where the recruiting was going on and helped block it. I did not, which says a lot about the two of us, you know, him being a year older, prepared to take bolder steps, not as interested in education at that time, as I was. I was more focused on getting a degree and having a career in history. Alan was in school largely, so he did not have to go to Vietnam. Like so many of his friends had from town of Barberton, industrial city of Barberton where he grew up. So, he participated, and I did not-I was sympathetic to it, I agreed with what the people were doing. But I figured if I go in that building, I am going to get arrested. As it turns out, no one was arrested. Because all of the Black students on the campus of which there were about 600, to about 650, left in mass and said that they would not return to campus unless, until charges were-were dropped, or the threat of charges were dropped against all the participants. The university said, "No, we are not going to do that." But SDS predicted that with regard to the university administration, that they were going to come under immense pressure. And a lot of the professors were going to say that they did not want to be teaching at an all-white campus. And that is exactly what some of the professors started to say. Either they adopted the SDS mindset and rhetoric or whether they came to it, that same position on their own, I do not know. But the NAACP, and-and other advocates for African Americans started joining the calls to just put this whole thing behind them. Whereas people on the right were saying "No, they should be expelled." So, the president of the university, Robert White was in a rather difficult position as he had been throughout his tenure of getting flak from both the left and the right. But he decided in this particular case that he was going to listen to those of his advisers that were, in effects saying that, that amnesty needed to be granted. They did not call it that, because they would have been too charged the term, all they said was that they did not have enough evidence to press charges against people, which was really ludicrous because they had taken photographs of everyone. But that is what they, that was their face-saving explanation. So as it turns out, no one was charged. And that had a profound effect, not only on me, but a lot of other people. Because we grew up, we tend to grow up in a country that that that insists that you cannot fight city hall, that if there is something amiss in the society that you are trying to overcome, it is very hard to do anything about that. But we knew differently, having viewed what the Civil Rights Movement had accomplished up to that point. And then we had this experience where Black and white students stood together, each drawing power from the other, and not only blocking the Oakland police from recruiting on the campus, but also being able to stand together and force the university to cede the possibility of any charges being filed against the participants.

SM: 46:22
See, this brings up the- and I have been to the remembrance events for many, many years. And before I came to Kent State for the first time, you may have heard this around the country, especially the couple years after the tragedy of the murder, what I call the murders at Kent State. And that is, that why did this happen at Kent State of all universities? This, in this conservative state of Ohio, at Kent State, why did it happen? Well, I was at Ohio State, so I know there is a lot of protests going on there. But I also know that Ohio University in Athens had always been given the name as the most liberal of the schools, where there was massive protests, even when I was working there in my early career. And you have just given some of the greatest examples of the activism that was taking place at Kent State, basically, you know, stating the truth about that this was a high- because of all the, the information you just given, that activism was alive and well. And-and, you know, having the older student like Alan and the younger student coming in, it was like the whole perception of the (19)60s was, it was always the graduate students that were kind of the leaders, and it was the undergraduates who were learning from them. Your-your descriptions are, are fantastic in terms of what Kent State was way before the tragedy of May 4 of (19)70. And I would like to ask this too about the president, President White, when I was read the first book, which is not a very good book, James Michener's book on Kent State, which came out I think in (19)71 with so much misinformation. It is, it is not even good anymore. But however, there was some strong criticism of President White in the book. And correct me if I am wrong, was he away the weekend of May 4th at a conference?

TG: 48:26
Yes, it was for the American College. It was it was the ACT- forgot, I forgot that the what the acronym stood-stood for fully, American college testing, it might have been. And he was there that weekend. But he-

SM: 48:45
But yeah-

TG: 48:46
-he also-

SM: 48:46
-I always thought that was terrible leadership on the part of a university president when a crisis was happening, and he was not there.

TG: 48:54
Yes, but he dealt with crises by absenting himself from, he would abdicate in effect, leadership. And I think he felt that if something bad happened, and he was not there, that the responsibility might fall on someone else other than him. Because, as I documented my book, there were-

SM: 49:18

TG: 49:18
-several instances earlier in his tenure, where there was a brewing crisis on the campus, and he turned responsibility for that over to his Vice President Raskins and a few others, Barkley McMillan, and people like that. And then he would go to his home and stay in touch by-by telephone. So, I mean, there is a lot of ways that that could be characterized- cowardice is one of them. But and I think that that is a fair charge, you know, to make against him. I will say, I do not say this so much in his defense is I do offering it as an explanation, that when I worked on my own book, and reviewed his correspondence from probably maybe (19)64, right up through the (19)70s shootings, that he always had to navigate the shoals of both the right and the left. And that was very difficult for-for him. And if he had been the president of Kenyon University, and responsible only to the trustees in that responsible to a governor and the taxpayers, et cetera, et cetera, the Ohio legislature, he might have been- might. Might have been a little more courageous, and willing to provide some leadership. But instead, he tried to, he-he navigated that that very treacherous political world by seeking not to make a mistake, and if a mistake were made, to turn through responsibility, to push down the level of responsibility to someone else. So, the fact that he was away during that period and did not come back, and then, and then to leave the campus to go to lunch with his aides, when he knew that the National Guard was moving against the student demonstration on May 4th, that, that that crystallizes everything.

SM: 51:36

TG: 51:37
His-his entire tenure was crystallized in that moment. But-but it has to be seen in this like, wider scope of conduct as, as the president of the university.

SM: 51:55
I just want to men- this is something I was going to say at the end of the area, but I think it is the perfect timing, when we are talking about not only Kent State but Jackson State, and, and in being there and talking to Alan and then coming to all the remembrance events that this was a simp- this was protest, freedom of expression. And-and I wrote this down, freedom of expression is central for all Americans who live in a democracy. Yet, why have the basic rights been denied to many who challenged the status quo, and the injustice in our society wherever it raises its ugly head? Kent State and Jackson State, this never should have happened. And a democracy may be, as Franklin Frank said, at the in 1776 independent [inaudible] when he described the wooden sun on the Washington's chair, was it a rising sun or a setting sun? Franklin said, it is a rising sun, if we can keep it. And to me, let me tell you this, this event, at Kent State on May 4th, just change my life, forever. And I have empathized even emotionally, with the four students who died and the nine who were wounded, and this is never should have happened. And it changed my career. And I just, in your own words, I did it with Joe Lewis, in my last interview, I want to just on that particular day of May 4th, where you were and what you did, and I know you were wounded. Just explain it because the people that are going to listen to this tape are not even born yet. These are going to be forever preserved. And could you go through then that like that, that day of May 4th 1970 from your viewpoint? Sure. Although as I have mentioned to you in some of our correspondents, electronic correspondence setting up this interview, I have been through this many, many times. I know.

TG: 54:08
And in in a lot of ways, I am kind of talked out on it. I will do my best. But I also want to alert and educate future listeners to the fact that in (19)85 I sat down with a man by the name of Bob Morrison, he and his mother wrote a book called "From Camelot to Kent State" and it consists of oral interviews with well, many well-known figures from the (19)60s and others that are like fairly obscure like me, because I was not a well-known figure of the (19)60s by any means. The only way that I have any notoriety at all is because of something that happened to me on May 4th (19)70, that I was hit. But it was not anything that I did. It was something that happened to me. So, when I am intro- when people introduce me sometimes as a person who got shot at Kent State, for years, I did not know what to say. And then I, I eventually came around to saying to people, yes, that that I was, and it was not an accomplishment. It was simply-simply, it was simply something that happened to me.

SM: 55:08

TG: 55:36
So, and, and none of us know that the future, we do not know what is going to happen an hour from now or tomorrow or next week. And when I went to the protest on May 4 (19)70, when I, when I left my classroom building, I knew that it was a very fraught, fraught situation. And I had promised a friend of mine whose brother had been killed in Vietnam, that I that I would not go to the protest. But I heard at the very end of the class, a woman get up and announce that there was going to be a rally on the Commons, which is the central area where this confrontation occurred, the central area of the campus where this confrontation occurred. And of course, I already knew that that rally was taking place, and it made a promise that I was not going to go. But I sat in the room for a minute or two after most people had left the classroom and, and kind of deliberated. What should I do? And I eventually came to the decision that I had been involved in and too much, that this expansion of the war was too wrong. And knowing what I know, and the kind of commitments that I had made over the last year, year and a half, that it was just too important. And I had an obligation to go, despite the promise that I made to my friend. So and there was something else that was at work, too. And I know that Alan, my friend, Alan Canfora would have discussed this. My roommate's brother had been killed near the Cambodia border with Viet- with Vietnam weeks beforehand, and we had attended his funeral probably the last week of April. And then, only a few days later, Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia. So this was a felt issue for us as well. Kent State was the kind of campus where it was not uncommon for a student to be there, and his brother being-being in Vietnam at the same time, or Kent State had about one out of every 10 of the male students in (19)70, were either reservists or veterans of Vietnam. And they had already fought the war and then on May 4th, there were dozens of them that were in the protests, they were at the rally, protesting a war that they had just fought. So I left my classroom building, it was a fairly short walk over to the rally site. When I got there, I saw hundreds of people, including several black flags that were being blown in the breeze. And I quickly recognized that two of my roommates were carrying them, so I gravitated to them immediately. The National Guard were off to the left. And the students were gathered around the base of a hill that is known as either Taylor Hill or Blanket Hill. It is a rather steep incline that forms almost like a natural amphitheater for that area of the campus. And there were maybe between three and five hundred active protesters. Another couple of thousand people that were onlookers, almost totally ringed this area of the campus known as the commons. And we were not there very long. Chanting anti-war slogans, many of them abusive. 1,2,3,4 we do not want your fucking war, 5,6,7,8 organize to smash a state, you know, stuff like that, pigs off campus. Et. cetera, et cetera. And Jeep came out with a campus patrolman riding shotgun. And I think two or three other Nat- and two or three National Guardsmen in the jeep. And they, and the campus policeman, Harold Rice, ordered us to disperse. I knew Harold a little bit. He was a nice man. And he was the kind of officer that would pick kids up who were sick on the campus and bring them over to the health center. And I will add parenthetically that about a year after the shootings, I was working a table to raise funds for a group of students, students known as the Kent 25 that have been charged for their role or their alleged role in all of the protests that occurred between May, May 1 and May 4. And he walked down the hall, made sure that no one was looking on either end, threw a couple of dollars down on the table, picked up one of the political buttons and attached that to the inside of his jacket walked off. So that gives you an idea of where Harold's sympathies lie. But on that occasion, he was trying to get us to disperse. And he was not doing it because he was trying to deny us our civil liberties. I think he was genuinely anxious and fearful for what was about to occur. But we did not know any of that. So it just whipped the crowd up into a further frenzy. And people were chanting, get the hell out of here, and cetera, et cetera, and someone threw either, it was probably a rock at the Jeep, and it hit the tire and bounced off and made a couple of passes. But I do not think they came as close as they did the first time. And then the Jeep returned to the National Guard lines. And they leveled their bayonets. They were given a command by their General Robert Canterbury, to begin firing tear gas and about 105 guardsmen leveled their- they all were wearing gas masks, most of them I should say were wearing gas masks and the gas dispersed the students and forced us up this steep incline that I referred to earlier. There was a large building at the very top of the hill called Taylor Hall, hence the name, Taylor Hill. And it was so large that to get up to the top of the hill and to safety and beyond, that students had to part ways. You either went to the left of the building or you went to the right, I went to the left of the building. And I had a handkerchief with me. So I kept that over my mouth and nose. But other people were rubbing their eyes from the tear gas, there was a- there was only one really clear picture that was taken of me at the protest that day. There was a close up, but you can see me yelling to a student not-not to rub her eyes, because that is the worst thing you can do. It just it just irritates the eyes. I have been tear gassed before in Washington and knew better than to do that. So when I got to the top of the hill, there was a girl's dormitory, Prentice Hall. That was to the left of Taylor Hall, the architecture building. And what a lot of the girls were doing, there were there were there was a first floor girls' bathroom with frosted windows. So they cranked these windows open, and they were moistening paper towels and passing them out to the students who had been tear gassed that were lying against the building on this grassy, grassy apron between the building and the Prentice Hall parking lot. So I spent most of the time there, either washing my face with these towels, or helping other people who had been gassed more seriously than me. So, while all this was going on, some students were throwing rocks at the guardsmen who had followed us up over this hill, and down onto a practice football field. There were not many people doing that, perhaps less than a dozen. Some of the guardsmen were throwing the rocks back at the students. I only know all of this because I saw photographs of it. I did not see that firsthand. But then I wanted to get a better look about what was taking place. So, I walked over to the-the very base of Taylor Hill or Blanket Hill, which on its reverse slope and the area of which I am now discussing was far more gentle, the one slope than the other side of the hill where the incline is very steep. And I stood there and watched these guardsmen leave an area where they had congregated about 75 of them on a practice football field, begin to march back in the direction that they had come from. And I was kind of pivoting to turn, turning my body to watch them as they were going. And when they got to the top of the hill, it seemed like I saw this quick movement, where you suddenly see 15, 20 men reverse course and stop their march and then turn around. And I heard one or two cracks of unmistakable, rifle fire. And I started to run. And within just a second or so, I did not get very far at all. I found myself on the ground, and I was not really sure what had happened it first. And then I looked down and I can, I could see what the bullet has done to my foot and ankle. And I was trying to in the process of raising myself to look at my lower body. I heard someone yelling, "Stay down, stay down. It is birch or it is buckshot," and he meant to say birdshot. He thought, and it was my friend Alan Canfora, who I really had not been with, since the rally had started when I first arrived on the campus, because when the tear gas came in, everybody got dispersed. So that caused me to realize that we were still under fire. And I needed to shield my body as much as I could. So I lay as prone as possible, while they gunfire continued. As it turns out, he wound up being hit too, although he had the shelter of a tree, a bullet, I do not know if it was a clear shot or a ricochet, but I went through his right wrist. And then after 13 seconds, the gunfire finally stopped. I discuss all of this in the book that I referred to earlier.

SM: 1:06:59
Right, yes-yes.

TG: 1:06:59
And also, another book that I also recommend to people because I think both of the books that I mentioned, are going to offer a superior account of what I am now describing, because they were offered years and years ago and my memory, memories of all this were much clearer than they are today. Now I am discussing it 52 years later. And in the earlier interviews I was discussing, when it was a 15 year old memory or when it was a 20 year old memory. Now it is 52-year-old memory. But I was, I remember when I was lying there, I was thinking, how are we going to get these guys to stop, we have we have no weapons of our own. If we did, if this were a real battle, we could return fire. We could. They were, they were, they were shooting and killing us. We could shoot back and try to kill them. But we did not have any arms. We were college students, we were just caught completely in the open. The only thing that was that stopped it was a major Harry Jones, who-who likely and oddly enough, is probably the one that gave the order to fire. But what-what he meant when he, if indeed he was the one that gave an order to fire, we do not know if he was saying, you know, fire-fire above their heads and people and the guardsmen misunderstood that, or whether some of them had who had hate and malice in their hearts, just wanted to kill as many students as they could, you know, started firing right-right into us. There were 60- between 61 and 67 shots that were fired, of that number 15 of those shots hit someone. So that means approximately one out of every four, four and a half rounds that were fired, actually struck someone so in that kind of an environment and from the distances that a lot of these guys were firing at us because people in some cases were hundreds of yards away from where the guardsmen, at their guardsmen firing line. These guys were pretty good shots because if one out of every four of your rounds, hit-hit the target, in this case a human target, that was, that was pretty good shooting. So it was it was it was terrifying being under fire and having being caught in the open and having no means of protecting yourself. Yeah, you mentioned something that I have heard before that you said that you went to Kent State to major in history not to be part of history and of course that was so true. When you look at the, when you were taken to the hospital, how long was the recuperation and-and when did you get back to school full time? Well, it was fairly lengthy recuperation. I was in the hospital in Ravenna, which is the county seat for Portage County where Kent, the town of Kent is located. I was there until the 13th of May. And then I was transported by ambulance back to my hometown in Syracuse, my father followed in his own vehicle. It was a time when a lot of college students were on the road protesting. There was a nationwide student strike. So here, you know, we would be passing all these cars on the New York state thruway, and on Interstate 90, and the ambulance says Kent on the side, and it has got a person in the back, you know, with-with long hair. So, it did not take a lot of imagination to figure what that was all about. And when we would pass a car that had young people, and it was long hair, they would be giving me a [inaudible] sign, you know, from their cars. So that that is something that I do not think I have talked about before in an interview. And that helped to kind of pump me up and to reinforce me because it was a very painful injury. And I had to go through a lot of surgeries. And I was in the hospital, in Syracuse until about, it was either June 28th, or June 30th when I got out. I remember what a great feeling it was just to see the sky again, and to breathe, you know, some fresh air because I had not been outdoors since May 4th, 1970.

SM: 1:11:37

TG: 1:11:39
And, you know, at that point, I had a cast from my foot up to my thigh, or up to my hip rather, and had to keep that on until probably December of that year. Because you know, a lot of, my ankle was broken, had to be put back together. They had to fuse it, that was the only way they could do it. So that is why I have that, if you have ever seen me walking around with a limp, that is why, that is where that limp comes from. But it is not, all things considered, it is not-not too bad. I mean, I have a huge cavity in my foot. But I am for the most part able to walk fairly well and have led a normal life. So, while it was really bad at the time, and I have, you know, the [inaudible] red-red badge on my foot as it were, in other respects that led to very regular life since then, unlike my friend Dean Kahler, who is who was paralyzed and had a, his life was immeasurably changed. Whereas in my case, it was not. And I always like to tell people too that when I got back into coaching baseball, and I had a son, who played ball and then when he did not want to play anymore, I was able to get into an adult baseball league. It is called the Muni league. And we have some fairly good players, Joe Charbonneau who played with the Cleveland Indi-

SM: 1:13:18
Oh, yeah, I got a baseball card of him.

TG: 1:13:20
Yeah, he played in the Muni league here in Buffalo, although at a higher level than I did. Paul Hollins, whose brother was on the (19)93 World Series Phillies teams-

SM: 1:13:33
Dave Hollins.

TG: 1:13:35

SM: 1:13:35

TG: 1:13:36
Yeah, he-he, he played. Paul, his brother, Paul, played in a Muni League. So I played in that for a couple of years in the (19)90s. Again, at a much lower level and on a bad team, and I was probably the wor- I used to tell people that I was the worst guy on the worst team. But I would still rather be the worst guy on the worst team than the best guy sitting on the bench.

SM: 1:14:06
[laughs] Yeah.

TG: 1:14:06
I was able to, you know, I was not able to run very fast I always used to tell people that I fielded like a DH and hit and hit like a pitcher and ran like a catcher. But I was still able to play. So, it could not have been that bad if I was able to go and play baseball for a couple of years.

SM: 1:14:26
Who were the- I guess my history questions because I knew you are a historian too. So I had some questions strictly that, not even Kent State. But I have a que- who were the heroes of Kent State, if you can say there is a hero, who were the heroes of Kent State and who were the villains?

TG: 1:14:48
Well, I think there was only one hero that that really stands out at Kent State and that was Glenn Frank. He averted a-a much wider slaughter. When the students regrouped immediately after the shootings, went back down to the commons, and sat down said they were going to refuse to leave. At that point, the general who had ordered the troops to attack us in the first place, encircled hundreds and hundreds of students who were seated at a compact [inaudible] says he was going to open fire into them if they did not leave. And Glen Frank and two other professors, all of whom are now deceased, and a history graduate student by the name of Steve Sharoff, pleaded with the National Guard general to give them time to get to convince the students to leave.

SM: 1:15:45

TG: 1:15:47
And a member of the Ohio, an officer in the Ohio highway patrol was there as well. And you can hear some of the film footage and audio footage from that moment. And Sheriff is saying to them, "Can you give us five minutes" and, and then you hear the Ohio highway patrol officer say, "You got five minutes." At that point, Glenn, Frank goes over and he had a lot of standing on the campus. He was a geology teacher, World War Two veteran, wore a crew cut. I mean, he really looked the part of having been, you know, World War Two veteran. And he had enormous standing on the campus with the students, although he was a conservative man, and he was not at all in sympathy with what the students were doing necessarily, but he loved the students of Kent State, and his oratory, heartfelt, as it was, was able, was enough to convince the students to get up and disperse. Otherwise, there would have been a slaughter on the scale of Sharpesville in South Africa were something like 67 people were massacred during some of the first anti-apartheid protests of the (19)60s. So he, he was a true hero in other respects. And as a historian, I tried not to, and I use- and I adopted this approach, when I was writing the book, I did not want it to be a morality play.

SM: 1:17:26
Okay, very good.

TG: 1:17:29
That is up to other people who will hear this tape and study can stay on their own and read some of the interviews that I have that I have given and listened to all of the other interviews that you have done. That is up to them to decide.

SM: 1:17:44
One of the things Tom is, when you look at the (19)60s themselves, and the divisions that were taking place in the (19)60s, many people at the time thought that there this could be another Civil War. I mean, this is like a general statement. I mean, we know what the Civil War was all about. But we were so divided as a nation, that there was a, there was commentary that, "Are we heading toward another one?" And now we are living in another era, right now, where a lot of people are saying, you know, the-the nation is so divided. Are we ever going to be united again? And so, so we are not, we are dealing with what happened in the (19)60s, you are a scholar of the Civil War. Can you put as a historian you know, I know you can write a book on this, but the divisions between America in the Civil War, the (19)60s and early (19)70s and now.

TG: 1:18:48
Well, in the (19)60s, we saw this less in terms of being a Civil War and more in terms of being a Revolution. That is how I thought about it. That, that the people who were, had been disadvantaged and oppressed and made to fight a war that was immoral and illegal, that all these forces would rise up against the government and create a, just a more civil society. That was a complete fantasy. But that does not mean we did not think that at the time. And of course, when you have something like this happen to you, you want to have, you want to have a measure of justice or some type of retribution, you know, so. So the peop- the people who were responsible for inflicting this upon us are going to be made to pay for it. I never really had confidence that the government was going to do that, how that might take place, I really cannot say, but or I am not prepared to say in the course of this interview, but a lot of us were very angry about that for a period of time. So, so a number of us saw ourselves as being like radicals, revolutionaries, or what have you. Was not too many years after that, though, that I became involved in the union movement, which is how I spent the majority of my adulthood. And that is a very different kind of organizing, because you have to be elected to union office, you have to represent a constituency, you have to make sure that you are acting in accord with their wishes. So, you do not want to be too far behind where they are at politically, but you do not want to be too far out ahead of where they are politically. So, what you are doing is you are providing leadership, but you have to be in close contact with the people that you are representing. So that, basically, that kind of a mindset informed my politics, you know, probably from, from the (19)70s on, you know, right up to the present day, in terms of the tensions that now exist in American society, I see it as a very, very dangerous time. Not unlike the late, well not unlike the periods throughout the entire (18)50s. There was, there was a fair amount of border violence during-during the (18)50s, both on either side of the Mason Dixon Line, or on either side of the Ohio River. And, of course, it was occurring on the on the borders of the new states that were seeking to come into the Union, places like Kansas, and later, Nebraska. And then, of course, the combination of that was the raid that John Brown undertook, in mid-October of (18)59, where he and several dozen of his followers tried to take arms that they had gotten from a federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, and used that to start a slave rebellion. Of course, that was crushed, and they were either killed, and majority of them were executed. 11 of those guys, by the way, were from Ohio, [inaudible] Brown, and four or five of his sons. And five of them were African American as well. So but now the tension in the energy is all coming from the, from the right, we have several recent public opinion polls show that somewhere around 10, or 15 million people in the United States feel that political violence is, is justified in terms of pursuing their means. You know, a dramatic example of that, that was January 6th, of course, and that energy is not dissipating. If anything, it was, it was as potent now, it was a year and a half ago. So, I do not know what is going to happen with all that. But it is going to either dissipate on its own or it is going to continue to gain momentum and, and lead to some level of clash that is worse than anything we have seen so far in the last five or six years. Beyond that, I cannot really make any predictions and I hope that it dissipates on its own but there is no indication that, that is, that is the case.

SM: 1:24:01
Another thing we hear today, from those who are protesting is we guess we are seeing a return of the to the (19)60s with this kind of protest. I kind of react negatively to that. I like the fact that people are protesting and speaking up and being heard. However, I am not, it is, it is a different time, the issues are different, although some are still the same. You talked about race, the whole issue of race, everybody's talking about race. I have never seen more books in my life, in Barnes and Noble than I see right now on the issue of race. And it is like my graduate advisor used to say who I interviewed Dr. Johnson, he used to always say, "Well, we are taking two steps forward, but we are always taking you know, a step backward. When we should be taken three steps forward and no steps backwards."

TG: 1:24:50
Well, that always happens with race in this country. Whenever there are gains, those people that have held down advances of African Americans in particular, eventually put up their hands and say enough, and then they try to take back what has been gained. That is the, that is the story of racial relations in the United States. And maybe-maybe what I can do is make-make a comment on this. In the (19)60s, all of the shootings on American college campuses happened at state universities, they did not happen at prestigious institutions. Some, somewhere in the neighborhood of about 16 to 18 people were killed by the authorities between (19)67 and (19)72. The vast majority of those people were African American, with the exception of Kent State, where two young women were killed, they were all male. So that, so that the, the repression and, and the use of lethal force, it was a class dimension involved, class and racial dimension involved in that as well. And for all of the tumult that existed in the (19)60s, the lethal violence was almost exclusively the purview of the authorities, rather than the protesters. Whereas, whereas today, we, the people who were protesting in the (19)60s, were trying to bring about a more racially inclusive and just society, and they were trying to stop a war that millions and millions of people saw as illegal and immoral. And for the most part, the-the tactics that were used to bring about those ends were, were not violent. And to the extent that force was used in in the protest, it was usually force and destruction against property, rather than against people. Whereas today, coming from the right, you, you see this, this angry impulse is being directed towards people. And there is almost like an indifference to-to human life. I mean, how else could we get to the point where we are approaching, for instance, 900,000 people dead from a pandemic-

SM: 1:27:43

TG: 1:27:43
-and you have people who refuse to get vaccinated and refuse to wear masks to protect the rest of the population and themselves, you know, so that there is, there is almost like a nihilism that is that has engulfed American society. And it is more afraid now than at any time in my lifetime. And probably more afraid now than it has been in over 150 years.

SM: 1:28:09
I agree. I agree. Well-

TG: 1:28:11
So, it is not a pretty picture. And it is not an optimistic forecast. But at the same time, someone is listening to these 10 or 15 years or 20 years from now, I hope that they are able to, to say, well, it was it was it was it was dim and dark then. But fortunately, we did not go over the cliff.

SM: 1:28:35
When, when did the (19)60s began and when did it end?

TG: 1:28:40
Well, I dated in my book from (19)58 to (19)73. That is how I understand what took place at Kent State.

SM: 1:28:50

TG: 1:28:50
Chronological period of about 15 years. I think there are different endpoints. I think one could say (19)75 when the, when the war ended. They did not. They did not end however, on a grassy hillside on May 4th (19)70.

SM: 1:29:09

TG: 1:29:09
As so many people believe it is just, it is just too neat. When people try to squeeze a tumultuous era into a chronological one. From my point of view, that does not work.

SM: 1:29:25
One of the things that I have always been dealing with in all my interviews, you are going to if you listen to them, I always ask this question. I remember I was interviewing Gaylord Nelson, the founder of-

TG: 1:29:37
The former senator from Wisconsin.

SM: 1:29:38
Yeah, I was in his office and he, I get to know him quite well and he gave me over four hours. I interviewed him, cut back and forth. But the question was this: I care deeply about Vietnam vets, and I have been going to the wall since (19)93, Memorial Day, Veterans Day. Know, I know quite a few of them. I have interviewed some of them. I have always been asked, "Why did not you serve in the war?" And it was a typical question, and I have to tell them why. But the question is this, Jan Scruggs, the founder of the Vietnam Memorial wrote the book, "To Heal a Nation." That was his book, that was his first book. And if you read the book, it is the purpose of it was not only to pay respect to those who served and died, and give them the respect they deserved, but to help the families of those who died and to show reverence also to those who served with the opening of the Wall in (19)82. Now, the question I keep asking, and this is how Gaylord Nelson responded, "are we ever been to heal from this war?" The divisions were so intense, that it seems like we never have healed from the war, even today. And when George Bush the first was president, he said, "the Vietnam syndrome is over." I always remember he said that.

TG: 1:30:52
[inaudible] I think.

SM: 1:30:53
Yeah, and it was (19)89. And I said, "You are kidding me. And impossible." So Gaylord Nelson responded in this way. He said, "People are not walking around Washington DC, you know, with not healing on their sleeves. They are not doing that." But he said, "Vietnam has forever changed the body politic." I would like your thoughts on that.

TG: 1:31:23
Well, it made Americans well, let me put it this way. It took the French two wars to get over their ideas as being colonizers. They had to lose both Vietnam, and or all of Southeast Asia for that matter, as well as Algeria, before they lost their taste for foreign domination. I think it is taken the Americans, maybe three wars. Two in the Middle East one, and actually, four. Vietnam, the two in the Middle East, and Afghanistan, before Americans really soured on it. So, I think in some respects, we are a nation of slow learners. And we, of course, just ended our-our longest war, and that was in Afghanistan. Of course, none of the wars that took place after Vietnam, were on that scale, and involved as many soldiers and involved as many casualties. But there are, there are really different ways of if you look at the long scope of American history, most of the wars that America has fought with the exception of the Second World War have been controversial. And as-as Vietnam was. I think the real question is, "When will the country learn that it cannot, cannot and should not try to dominate the world." We are not the policemen of the world as-as the is the popular wisdom often has it. But it does not have that, the popular wisdom is not prevalent enough to keep us from becoming embroiled in these kinds of, from initiating very often and becoming embroiled in these kinds of conflicts.

SM: 1:33:41
I only got a few more questions, and then we will be done.

TG: 1:33:44
I yeah, we are maybe one more Steven, and we are going to have to wrap up,

SM: 1:33:48
This is the last one, then. This is about the issue of trust. I can remember being [inaudible] the same the same age, and being in college and going to a lot of speakers on campus. And in hearing about we cannot trust leaders and I, there was this perception out there in the (19)60s and (19)70s, that if a person was a leader, no matter whether it be a president of a university, a head of a corporation, politician, President of the United States, you know, they cannot trust him. There is just-

TG: 1:34:22
I know where you are going with this. I did not feel that way. I felt that there were people who had earned trust. And I was prepared to give it to him. And then there were other people that I knew that I knew could not be trusted, and were clear adversaries. But-but I did not. I did not dismiss all people who held positions of authority. And let us let us keep in mind, too, that the leaders of not only the Civil Rights movement, but the movement against the war in Vietnam, were often 10 or 15 years older than many of the people that were the, you know, the rank-and-file protesters.

SM: 1:35:03
Yes, you are right. That is true. All right. Well, I guess that is it. Do you have any, do you have any final thoughts on?

TG: 1:35:15
No, I think we have, we have, we have covered-covered a lot of ground and you-you asked good questions, Steve. And I would like to thank you for persevering with this too, because this is I know, the third or fourth time you have tried to set this up. So, I appreciate what you are doing to help preserve the history of these times through these interviews.

SM: 1:35:36
Well, I will be at Kent State in, I do not, I do not care if they are having a ceremony or not, I am going to be there. [crosstalk]

TG: 1:35:41
Well, we will get a chance to meet then because there is a committee that is re-forming now to do in 2020 what we were not able to do that year and in 2021.

SM: 1:35:56
Very good. Alright, Tom, well, thank you very much. You be safe, your family be safe and healthy and happy here in the year 2022. And carry on.

TG: 1:36:07
Thank you, Steve. You do the same.

SM: 1:36:08
Have a great day.

TG: 1:36:09
Look forward to meeting you in May.

SM: 1:36:11
Take care, bye now.

TG: 1:36:12
You too, bye.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview



Stephen McKiernan


Dr. Thomas Grace

Biographical Text

Thomas Grace, a native of Syracuse, NY, is an educator and activist. Grace was one of nine students wounded and four students killed during the Kent State shooting. He graduated in 1972 with a Bachelor's Degree in History. He also earned a degree in Social Work from SUNY Buffalo. He worked for many years as a social worker and union representative. After his retirement, Grace received a Ph.D. in History from SUNY Buffalo. He is currently serving as Adjunct Professor of History at Erie Community College. He is the author of Kent State: Death & Dissent In The Long Sixties.





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Binghamton University Libraries

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Interview Format


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Nineteen sixties; Baby boom generation; Kent State shooting; Student protest; Activism; College campus.


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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

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“Interview with Dr. Thomas Grace,” Digital Collections, accessed March 3, 2024,