A look into monumental events that shaped OU during the ‘60s and ‘70s

Jessica Hill / Asst. Managing Editor

Mimi Hart flipped through the photo album, pointing out her friends, her old house and a hitchhiker who would stay for a meal and an empty couch.

“My gosh. I haven’t looked at these in a while,” Hart said.

She came to OU in 1967 to study English and hasn’t left since.

“We loved it so much,” Hart said. “Appalachia is just a compelling place and we were compelled by each other; the friendships we formed at a young age.”

Athens was a welcoming city, she said, and she made friends with people who she is still close with today. Her college experience, like many others during the ‘60s and ‘70s, was not without its exciting events that would define significant moments in OU’s history.

For example, floods were a recurring event in the ‘60s, as well. Before the Hocking River was moved in 1969 to run along the outside of West Green, it ran through the university, going underneath Richland Bridge, between West Green and Union Street. The greens would flood drastically, sometimes rising to more than 20 feet. Students would dive from the roofs of buildings into the muddy water and would paddle in canoes. Besides the continuous flooding that occurred, other events popped up throughout the decade.

The draft

Many students, men especially, did not care about what subject they chose as a major. Bob Devaney, who studied engineering and English at OU, was just focusing on staying out of Vietnam. Every month, the country would do a lottery with numbers from 1 to 365. Those who pulled out a lower number would be some of the first to leave. Devaney got the number 335. Although he received a draft notice, a doctor wrote a letter to the draft board excusing him because of his bad knee.

“It was a terrifying time when your boyfriend was waiting for his draft number, or your friends,” Hart said. “If your number came up, you were terrified.”

Breaking curfew


In April of 1969, women protested curfew of 11 p.m. by walking out of their dorms at 11:15 and onto College Green. (Archive)

Also during this time, female students had a curfew of 11 p.m., while the male students did not. Often, President John Calhoun Baker and his wife would spot couples kissing at Howard Hall, which is where Scripps Hall stands now. In addition to the curfew, Baker implemented a new student code of conduct because of some of these public displays of affection.

In April of 1969, about 850 women marched out of their dorms at 11:15 and gathered at Templeton Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium to protest the curfew. At midnight, student leader Alicia Woodson announced, “Women, it’s a minute after 12, and we’re liberated,” according to a Post archive. Women’s hours would not be repealed until the mid ‘70s.

Hart remembers that she would get “campused,” or punished for leaving the campus to go see concerts by Jimi Hendrix and Cream. Her mother would have to write a letter giving her permission to leave, and the dean of women would reply. Even then, her roommates were forced to shun her, and Hart was only allowed to go to the cafeteria.

Civil Rights

On Feb. 3, 1969, the Athens City Council passed an anti-discrimination law, which was one of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the state. It outlawed discrimination “due to race, creed, color, national origin or ancestry in areas of public accommodations, employment and housing,” according to a Post archive. It also established a Human Resources Commission to hear complaints and set a “penalty for conviction as a fine up to $500 per day until corrected.”

In the early 1900s, Athens had been very inhospitable to African Americans, Betty Hollow, a retired faculty member who wrote a book about the history of OU, said. Although they were admitted to study at the university, black students did not have a place to live and had to rent rooms on the west side of town.

“Athens was a very unwelcoming town to African Americans,” Hollow said. “Even much later when Baker came along, he had to threaten people who rented rooms in town that if they wouldn’t rent to African American students, he would see that no one would rent from them at all.”

In the late 1960s, however, Athens’ new anti-discrimination law was considered one of the strongest in the state. It was proposed two years after a significant tragedy — the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., which sparked sit-ins and rallies. At the intersection of Court and Union streets, students gathered in memorial, and President Vernon R. Alden read a eulogy. King had come to the university almost 10 years before for a Christian World Mission, describing his visit as a “gratifying day,” according to Post Frontier archives.


Students and activists gathered in the intersection of Court and Union street to mourn Martin Luther King Jr. in April of 1968. (Archive)

“It was a significant several-hour strike in the way that Martin Luther King Jr. would have a strike — peacefully — in the middle of the street,” university archivist Bill Kimok said as he looked through pictures and documents of the event.

‘School closed’


Ohio University students tried to rebuff police gas attacks by returning the canisters to police lines during the riot that broke out after the Kent State Shootings in May 1970. (Archive)

Anti-war protests were rising throughout the country, and many occurred on campus. Students often rallied in between the war monument on College Green and the then Baker Center, which is now Schoonover Center, or they would take over Court Street.

On May 4 in 1970, four students at Kent State University were killed and nine were injured by the National Guard during a protest against the U.S. military forces bombing Cambodia. The killing sparked outrage in campuses across the nation, but especially in Ohio. Colleges one by one were shutting down after student protests and revolts.

Ralph Izard, a journalism faculty member at the time, remembered standing at Logan’s Bookstore, now Follett’s Bookstore, when someone pulled a brick from the sidewalk and threw it into the window. Staff and faculty members were told to go to College Green to try to keep students calm. The university wanted to keep the school open, despite other universities in Ohio shutting down.

Attempts to keep the campus calm didn’t work, however. Hart remembers leaving the library with a friend and encountering tear gas thrown by the police. It was terrifying, she recalled. After several days of trying to calm the increasingly intense situation, the university closed at 3 a.m. on May 15. Students were given 24 hours to evacuate, and many of Hart’s friends who lived far away stayed with her family in Lancaster.

The National Guard marched into Athens in the morning. Instead of parking meters, Hart said, National Guardsmen lined Court Street.

“I will never forget looking out the window of my office onto Court Street and looking straight down the barrel of a gun that was being held by National Guardsmen as they lined up across Court Street,” Izard said. “It was scary.”

“Because we lived through those incredibly hectic and tumultuous times, we formed bonds and I’m still friends with tons of people from that era that worked on the paper with us”Thomas Hodson

Thomas Hodson, who was a journalism student during that time, helped cover the event for The Post. By the time the National Guard arrived, he was exhausted, and his sinuses would be affected for months because of the tear gas. The headline for The Post read, “School closed.”

“Because we lived through those incredibly hectic and tumultuous times, we formed bonds, and I’m still friends with tons of people from that era that worked on the paper with us,” Hodson said.

Workers’ Strike

The riot that was sparked by the Kent State shooting was not the only protest that students would experience during that time. In 1971, there was a strike that endured for nine days when university non-academic workers demanded better working conditions. Workers picketted on Factory Street and even started blocking food deliveries in Athens.


Friday, March 10, 1967 The Post reports on the strike of non-academic University employees. (Archive)

“Suddenly you don’t have grounds people, you don’t have cooks, you don’t have dorm cleaners,” Hollow said. “You don’t have huge numbers of workers. The students, interestingly, sided with the workers. They came out and marched with them.”

The strike ended when Harry Crewson, the president of Athens City Council, and Oscar McGee, the leader of the strike, went to The Little Ritz, now The Smiling Skull Saloon, to negotiate over a couple of beers, Kimok said, recalling Crewson telling the story.

“As I look back on it, despite all the uproar and in spite of the turmoil and the very sad things that were going on, it was one of my favorite times as a college faculty member because I loved the students so much,” Izard said.

Editor's Note: Do you have any photos and stories from your time at Ohio University? Share them with us at, and they might be used in an alumni photo blog.

Development by: Megan Knapp / Digital Production Editor

Landing Page

Special Projects

This story is part of a series of specially designed stories that represents some of the best journalism The Post has to offer. Check out the rest of the special projects here.