Bomb Explodes at Bluefield State College

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
November 17, 1968

Dr. Hardway Says Death Threats Don't Worry Him

By Niles Jackson
Associate Press Writer

The white president of the once all-black Bluefield State College glanced at the latest death threat to cross his desk.

"We will settle for a bullet in the head. We are going to try our dammest (sic) to kill you. We swear this," it read in part.

It was signed, "Black Power." Dr. Wendell dismissed the note with a casual, "No, it doesn't worry me." He also denied any concern when bricks were hurled through his bedroom window last weekend.

"I've received threats before," he said. "My only concern is what effect they will have on the campus."

A storm of controversy enveloped Dr. Hardway the moment he stepped on campus three years ago as the first white president in the school's 72-year history.

Mass Proportions

It attained mass proportions last year when 10 students were suspended after a violent demonstration protesting alleged racial discrimination.

Several weeks ago it took a different turn when Negro education major Edgar James, a 25-year- old ex-Army paratrooper, presented Hardway with a list of 35 "student demands." Opinions vary as to how many students James represented.

Since then death threats have been mailed and telephoned to Hardway and three other college officials, automobile tires have been slashed, telephoned bomb threats have become almost routine and a group of Negroes twice dumped trays of food on the cafeteria floor and tables.

Most recently several Negro students have been seen wearing books of matches tied around their necks or attached to coat lapels on which are written the initials: "EOW."

"The rumor on campus is that it means they intend to burn down the campus by the 'end of the week'", Hardway said.

"This is a said and ugly thing," he added. "We know who we were fighting before. This is more like guerilla warfare."

Caught In Middle

Caught in the middle of the polarized battle between James and the Black Power group on the one side and the college administration on the other are the 950 white students and many of the 450 black students.

They seem to have limited knowledge of the demands, or disagree with them and the charges which accompany them or are afraid to take sides.

"I'm afraid to say anything," one Negro girl said.

Another black student said the tires of his car were slashed the day after he spoke up against the list of demands.

He said the word is being spread around campus that "unless you're with them, heads roll."

Most students contacted, white and black, said there was little or no discrimination on campus.

"I think the president and the administration have done a lot for the school," remarked one Negro. Most others agreed.

James, however, reacted quite the opposite.

"They are carrying out mental genocide here," he said, "trying for the educational extermination of the black student. There is a systematic weeding-out of the black student. This is an imperialistic and oppressive system at Bluefield."

His demands, which he claims have the backing of most of the Negro students on campus, call for increased financial aid to Negroes, more student power, more cultural events, longer library hours and great emphasis on black history.

Already Begun Work

Hardway, who said the list is the work of James and about a dozen followers, said he had already begun work in some areas covered by the demands, but termed most of them "ridiculous."

"About 80 per cent of the school's financial aid goes to Negroes and they represent only 30 per cent of the total enrollment," he said.

"We already planned courses in black history and black culture and hope to have them next semester as well as a student discipline committee."

"They want more on-campus cultural events and yet the once-a-month concerts we have now are poorly attended. And the library, open now all week except Sunday and half a day on Saturdays, is not used very extensively."

Registration statistics who the number of Negro students has actually grown since integration from about 250 in the early 1950s to more than 450 at present.

Hardway viewed as "ridiculous" certain demands calling for his resignation and that of other top administrators, dismissal of "those vigilantes" of which Hardway said he knows nothing and several others accusing teachers of racial bias in grading.

He pointed to the last item on the list which read: "We want the above mentioned 34 demands met in full, now!"

"These black students are talking about black culture," he said. "But this is 'black-mail' and we won't have it.


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