Kanawha County Textbook Controversy

Charleston Gazette
September 13, 1974

County Schools Closed In Face of Text Fight

By Kay Michael
Staff Writer

All schools in Kanawha County will be closed and all extra-curricular activities canceled through Saturday.

Kenneth Underwood, county superintendent of schools, said Thursday he is closing down the school system because "there's apparently no way that we can have law and order. Mobs are ruling and we're extremely afraid somebody will be hurt. The safety of children is our paramount objective."

His announcement came after Sheriff G. Kemp Melton said the county's approximately 50 deputies could no longer cope with the school text book crisis without help from other law enforcement agencies.

The sheriff said 40 men in riot gear in the East Bank-Belle area were dispatched early Thursday to deal with reported incidents of rock throwing and other types of violence.

SHORTLY BEFORE midnight Wednesday, the sheriff's department requested assistance from state police in clearing a lane for trucks to pass at Smith Transfer Co.

Col. R. I. Bonar was called to the police radio and ordered officers to turn back and not get involved.

Thursday afternoon, state police Capt. C. W. Andrick said that troopers will be assigned to guard against violence at locations where pickets have appeared.

Andrick, commander of Company B in South Charleston, said two men will be assigned to each car. So far, manpower being used in being drawn from his detachment.

He declined to say how many troopers will be on duty. He simply said they will be on duty 24 hours a day.

As of 5 p. m. Thursday, Underwood said he hadn't seen state troopers around school trouble spots. "I haven't seen hid nor hair of them," he said.

The superintendent said the situation will be examined during the weekend and a determination made as to whether schools will reopen Monday.

SEVERAL BUSINESS leaders met with Gov. Moore Thursday and were assured he was following the situation closely.

The Governor volunteered to act as conciliator between the two groups in an effort to get all children back into school and to bring the confrontation to an end. He said there's a proper way to dissent and he intends to see that state law is obeyed.

A spokesman for the U. S. Marshal's office in Washington, D. C. said additional deputy marshals won't be sent to bolster forces here.

U. S. District Judge Dennis R. Knapp signed an order earlier this week demanding that deputy marshals enforce temporary restraining orders he has issued against the pickets.

Sheriff Melton also said Thursday the character of the protest had changed and claimed coal miners and the UMW are now in command of it.

He said there are fewer women on the picket lines and many more coal miners, many from outside the area. He said some are in from Harlan, Ky. and that they said they were here to repay the favors miners from this area had done for them in connection with the Brookside strike.

Some miners on a picket line Thursday at Smith Transfer Co. at Bell[e] echoed the claim that the eruption is now a labor dispute.

"Up to last night it was a protest," miner who refused to identify himself claimed.

"Now it's a strike. If they don't have this thing settled by Sunday I'm going to drive to Harlan County, Ky. and get help. They owe us a favor."

ANOTHER objected to the presence of black police officers at a protest line late Wednesday.

"They sent two coon detectives. You know two niggers N-I-G-G-E-R-S. Now you print that."

Men on picket lines at Smith Transfer and the Kroger warehouse gave varied reasons as to why the board's proposal wasn't acceptable to them.

One said it was because it hadn't been signed. Another complained it didn't provide for the removal of all "Communist" books.

Still another claimed the clergy had let them down.

"Them damn preachers didn't do anything for us."

Another interrupted him, claiming "we're still listening to our preachers."

Steve King, vice qpresident [sic] of Charleston Kroger Store operations, said the warehouse on MacCorkle Avenue had been shut down.

"Protesters," he said, "blocked workers and trucks from entering or leaving the premises."

The Charleston warehouse serves 52 Kroger stores. Stores have already received one shipment for this weekend but King said unless warehouse operations resume immediately shortages will develop and some stores may be forced to close.

PLANS BY the board to withdraw books from county schools created a backlash Thursday that resulted in the walkout of an estimate 1,200 students at George Washington High School.

Principal Donald Gene Douglas said students began filing out early after the faculty began collecting the books.

However, the mother of a George Washington student said she was told by her son that the fire bell rang and students were told to leave.

Douglas did say he decided to close the school when the bulk of the students began to file out.

IT HAS been reported that teachers in a number of county schools also have threatened to walk out in protest of the board's compromise.

One of the leaders of the protest, the Rev. Henry Thaxton of the Christian American Parents organization, said Thursday he would favor a more moderate approach on the part of protesters.

He issued this statement:

"I have read the proposal of the board of education. I have also read the evening news. While it may be more convenient for me to say nothing at this time, I must do so.

"Our goal in this protest was to remove the objectionable books from our schools. This goal has now been accomplished with the cooperation of honest and decent people throughout the county and state. Christian-American Parents have set the goal of educating the people as to the content of the books. We have also set the standard of peaceful and orderly protest.

"We haven't deviated from that goal nor from that standard in behalf of all of you who share my deep convictions. I would like to accept this proposal and begin a reconciliation between the opposing parties. Your confidence in me and my judgment must be your base for your acceptance or rejection of my suggestion. I would hope that this weekend would allow for a time of thought and consideration."

KANAWHA Common Pleas Court Thursday issued an injunction to Smith Transfer Co. It restricts protesters from engaging in more volatile boycott activities.

It was also reported Thursday that lawyers were pressing for criminal contempt action against several pickets.

Charleston lawyer Page Henley is seeking a federal injunction against pickets at True Temper Corp.

Charleston Mayor John Hutchinson seemed determined not to enter the controversy.

He said when city laws are broken the police will enforce the laws. He added he hasn't received any requests from industries in the city for additional police protection.

VIOLENCE in connection with the textbook controversy reached a new plateau Thursday, when a man was grazed by a bullet and another man severely beaten during a picket line incident at the Smith Transfer terminal at Belle.

State police said the shooting occurred about 3 p.m., when a Smith Transfer employe, identified as Everett Mitchell, 52, of 813 Smith St., Charleston, got off a bus at the Belle truck depot, produced a pistol from a bag he was carrying, and fired several shots in the direction of a large group of pickets.

One of the pickets suffered a minor flesh wound from one of the bullets, but refused to give his name to troopers, and declined medical attention, police said. When troopers arrived at the scene after receiving word of the shooting, they found a badly beaten Mitchell surrounded by about 70 pickets.

Mitchell was taken to the Memorial Division of Charleston Area Medical Center, where he underwent surgery Thursday night. Mitchell suffered possible internal injuries as a result of the beating, hospital personnel said.

ROCK THROWING incidents and threats of violence resulted in Sheriff G. Kemp Melton's dispatching 40 deputies in riot gear to the East Bank and Belle areas earlier Thursday. The Smith terminal at Belle was the target of sporadic vandalism throughout the night Wednesday.

Pickets also blocked the Kroger Co. warehouse and terminal in Kanawha City Thursday, but city police reported no incidents in connection with that activity. Supporters of the textbook movement were successful in halting nearly all truck traffic at the Kroger depot early Thursday.

Other Kanawha County locations seeing picket activity Thursday included Walker Machinery in Belle, the Point Express terminal in North Charleston and several I-64 construction sites in Charleston.

The Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority terminal was the scene of picketing early Thursday, despite an injunction against such activity. Protesters reportedly threw rocks at several KRT buses in scattered locations, and were successful in turning one bus back in Montgomery.

A Kanawha Coal Operators Assn. spokesman said no member mines in the county were operating Thursday as a result of intensified picketing. Protesters also shut down two mines in Logan County, three in Raleigh County, at least four in Fayette County, and most Boone County mines, the spokesman said.

The spokesman said it has been determined that there are sufficient deputies stationed in Charleston to handle the matter. There are eight deputy marshals stationed in Southern West Virginia.

He said the decision will be reconsidered if it appears to be hazardous for the deputies to enforce Judge Knapp's orders.

THE SCHOOL and economic boycott wasn't lessened by the board of education's agreement Wednesday to withdraw the textbooks that had been singled out by book critics as being particularly offensive.

If anything, some protesters intensified their picketing activities after deciding at a rally Wednesday night that the board hadn't acted in good faith in meeting their demands.

The furor stems from the board's adoption of textbooks that some feel undermine patriotism and Christiantity [sic], and are "trashy."

Last week, protesters began boycotting county schools. Within hours, their protest had spread to coal mines, businesses and industries in the valley.

Wednesday, the board agreed to remove the bulk of the books labeled unacceptable by most critics. All books adopted by the board this summer would be subject to review, but the books singled out as most offensive would be removed from schools subject to that review.

THURSDAY, Underwood said the board planned to continue honoring the book removal agreement.

"Some board members submitted named to me. Some haven't had the opportunity and some I haven't been able to get in contact with. We're still upholding our end of the agreement, packing the books, and doing exactly what we said we'd do."

Board member-elect F. Douglas Stump, chairman of the review committee, said he doesn't intend to push the review until pressure on the part of protesters eases.

He said he felt the board's agreement constituted a tremendous concession to the protesters.

Stump added he felt the protest was no longer a textbook issue, but an economic one.

"United Mine Workers (UMW) members are trying to put themselves in a better position to bargain."

WHEN HE MAKES his appointments to the review committee, he said he will choose George Casey, a retired school principal, Tom Bumgardner, and a housewife who has not appeared on the picket lines.


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