On the 45th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, read our 2010 blog about a Kent State professor’s letter to WKU librarian Julia Neal in the aftermath of the tragedy.
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Edgar L. McCormick was an English professor at Kent State University when, on May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen fired into a crowd of students demonstrating against the Vietnam War, killing four and wounding nine. A month later, McCormick sent a letter to Julia Neal (1905-1995), then the director of WKU’s Kentucky Library. “Strangers and lovers of alma mater, miles away, have seen this tragedy more clearly than many of us close enough to see the bayonets and hear the shots,” he wrote, noting the expressions of sympathy that had come from as far away as England. The university had been closed to students, and McCormick and other faculty, though “permitted to enter the one unchained door to each building,” were “lonesome without them.” After classes resumed in the summer, McCormick was saddened by the continuing turmoil: campus police “beefed up,” townspeople refusing to rent to students, and rumors that Kent State would be closed permanently. “So it goes,” he mourned, “this lamentable confusion,” abetted by “little politicians.” McCormick hoped that summer, with its outdoor concerts, gardening, and family activities, would offer some consolation. “Meanwhile,” he wrote, closing his letter to Miss Neal, “Peace!”