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Archive for Monday, July 2, 2001

WKD-Former protesters plan reunion

July 2, 2001

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"My time at KU turned me into a social-justice activist for the rest of my life," said Lance Hill, "and I was only there a semester!"

Hill was expelled from KU for disrupting 1969 ROTC graduation ceremonies at Memorial Stadium.

He later made a career of combating the Ku Klux Klan. He is executive director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Between 1989 and 1992, he was instrumental in exposing former Louisiana gubernatorial candidate David Duke's ties to the Klan and other white supremacist groups.

Hill, 50, wasn't the only hellraiser at KU in the Sixties.

Now, he and dozens of presumably grayer, tamer, former KU campus activists are planning a first-ever reunion, Aug. 2-5, in Lawrence. The reunion is not affiliated with KU.

Kindred Spirits

So far, about 30 people have paid the reunion's $75 registration fee. Gatherings and forums are planned at The Eldridge Hotel, Plymouth Congregational Church and the farm of John Naramore, one of the event's key organizers.

"This is about getting together a bunch of people -- I call them kindred spirits -- who share a similar political and cultural experience in a time and place that just so happened to be KU from, say, the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s," said Naramore, 54.

Four dead in Ohio

Naramore, president of Kansas Key Press, 900 N.J., graduated from KU in 1970, the year KU canceled finals in a move to avoid the violent demonstrations that followed the National Guard killing of four students at Kent State University in Ohio.

Later that summer, Lawrence officials imposed curfews after police shot and killed Rick Dowdell, a black teen-ager, on July 16. Four days later, Nick Rice, a white KU student from Overland Park, was killed by a stray bullet while standing outside the Gaslight Tavern, then at the corner of 13th and Oread.

"Those were terrible days for the university and for academia," said John Wright, a KU professor from 1968 to 1996. "But they were absolutely necessary because universities and students cannot be afraid the blow the whistle."

What's happening

For years, Naramore pitched the reunion idea to his KU comrades.

"Everybody thought it was a great idea, but nobody had the time to make it happen," he said.

Dennis Bosley, who graduated in 1971, made the time. He put the idea in e-mails to a few friends, who, in turn, passed it on to their friends. Before long, more than 120 graduates, former students and friends -- former chancellor Larry Chalmers, for example -- were getting regular updates.

"Because of the e-mails, all kinds of people have been in contact with friends they'd lost track of over the years," said Bosley, 52. "So in that sense the virtual reunion is already happening."

While at KU, Bosley was best known for appearing at demonstrations on 8-foot-tall stilts.

You chicks

Though much of the student movement focused on the Vietnam War and racial injustice, it also gave rise to the women's movement.

"I still remember being at an SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) meeting and hearing the leader, a male, say, 'OK, we need organize this march, so you chicks go over there and plan the cleanup,'" said Caroljean Brune, one of the reunion's organizers. "That was a real eye-opener."

Brune, now budget director and chief fiscal officer at KU's School of Education, remains active in women's issues. She's the reunion's treasurer.

"What happened back then shaped everything I am today," she said.

Underground News

Wayne Sailor ran "Reconstruction," the Lawrence-area's underground newspaper, in the late 1960s. Now a special education professor at KU, he, too, is helping with the reunion.

"I'd just like to get people back together to find out who we are now and to take a look at whatever continuity there may be between then and now," he said.

The continuity should be apparent, said Bill Tuttle, a KU professor who has studied the university's role in the 1960s.

"For the most part, these are people who are still fighting the good fight," he said. "You just don't hear about it as much. They're social workers, labor organizers, teachers, health care workers. I doubt their core beliefs have changed that much."

-- Staff writer Dave Ranney can be reached at 832-7222.

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