An Act of Conscience

Another excerpt from Morgantown to San Francisco, a memoir I am writing. My fist five books are available at They are: Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories; The Soviet Union and Lincoln County USA; Sarvice Mountain; Cruising the Acropolis; Damn Yankee Buttons.

A few days before, I was watching the demonstrations with Randy Kehler, a friend who organized for the War Resisters League. We went in the College of Business to take a leak—exactly the wrong building. Tactical squad riot police headquarters was in the College of Business, of course it was. Four tactical squad members followed us into the restroom. The first two cops jammed Randy and me against the wall and demanded identification. The other two searched the stalls and wastebaskets.

I fumbled my driver’s license and it fell to the floor.

“You dropped your card.” The cop had a nasty curl to his lips. He didn’t move back. I slid down and picked up the card with about six inches between me and the surly cop. One slight wrong move and I was going to get hurt. Randy had some granola in a bag, one cop looked inside the bag and then emptied it into the trash can.

 In 1969, during the Vietnam War, Kehler returned his draft card to the Selective Service System. He refused to seek exemption as a conscientious objector, because he felt that was simply a form of cooperation with the US government’s actions in Vietnam. After being called for induction and refusing to submit, he was charged with a federal crime. Found guilty at trial, Kehler served twenty-two months of a two-year sentence.

Daniel Ellsberg‘s exposure to Kehler in August 1969…was a pivotal event in Ellsberg’s decision to copy and release the Pentagon Papers. (It was Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers which led President Nixon to create a group of in-house spies, who undertook the ill-fated Watergate break-in, which led to Nixon’s resignation)

The refusal of Randy, and his wife Betsy Corner, since 1977, to pay taxes for military expenditures resulted in the 1989 Federal seizure, and eventual legal forfeiture, of their house in Colrain, Massachusetts. This was documented in the film An Act of Conscience (1997).[1]



Posted in Memoir, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jim Rebb

An excerpt from Morgantown to San Francisco, a book I am working on. And by the way you can get my first five books on They are Imagonna, The Soviet Union and Lincoln County USA, Sarvice Mountain, Cruising the Acropolis, and Damn Yankee Buttons

James Reeb

In my second year as Foreign Student Advisor at West Virginia University, I was dismayed by the televised beatings in Selma and learning of the murders of Unitarian-Universalist member Viola Liuzzo and minister James Reeb. I was disappointed in myself that I had hesitated and not gone to Selma. Al Ulmer, my Peace Corps friend and Florida State University all-American football player, drove Unitarian-Universalist minister, James Reeb, from Atlanta to Selma the day he was murdered. Twenty years after James Reeb’s murder,  Rev. Clark Olsen, who survived that attack, wrote about it in UUAWorld.Com. Here are some excerpts:

Selma was 36 years ago. But 20 years went by before my thoughts began to mature about what happened there—to Jim Reeb, Orloff Miller, and me.

My Selma had been a mixture of anger, fear, sorrow, wonder, and pride. Anger about Jim Reeb’s death, about those who attacked the three of us, and about the Alabama system of justice—including an all-white, all-male jury—that found innocent the three men who had been charged with killing Jim.

Selma was fear, reexperienced fairly often in telling friends or family about the events of that terrible night in Selma: the men coming across the street shouting angry words, carrying a club. Waiting at the clinic while the doctor examined Jim. Fearing Jim’s death as he squeezed my hand more tightly as his head pain increased and before he sank into unconsciousness. Fearing for all of us when our ambulance had a flat tire just after leaving Selma’s city limits on the way to the hospital in Birmingham, and the ambulance radiotelephone wouldn’t work. Especially fearing when a car full of white men pulled up behind us on the country road, then followed us back to town while we drove on the rim of our flat tire, headed for a phone that would bring a replacement ambulance. Fear turned to terror when the car full of men parked next to our waiting ambulance and walked around the ambulance knocking on the windows. I thought that they might bury us in a watery ditch that night, the same kind of ditch where the bodies of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner had recently been found in Mississippi. And fear that Jim would die before we arrived at the Birmingham hospital.

And Selma was sorrow. Sorrow that Jim, “this good man” as President Lyndon B. Johnson called him in his address to Congress, left his family to be in Selma, walked with Orloff and me on that Selma sidewalk in the position, next to the curb, that was most vulnerable to the attackers’ club; that we weren’t able to get help quickly; that he had very little chance, if any, of surviving the blow; and that his wife and children had to deal with this terrible blow to them as well.

Wonder and pride were also part of my Selma mixture. Wonder, or amazement, at the media attention, at the sight, in the hospital, of President Johnson’s gift of yellow roses, and at his dispatch of a presidential aircraft to bring Marie Reeb and Jim’s father to Birmingham before Jim’s body gave out. Amazement that Jim’s martyrdom apparently moved President Johnson to urge Congress to pass the Voting Rights Bill.

In response to Jimmy Lee Jackson’s death, Johnson had received no phone calls; in response to Jim Reeb’s death, the President had gotten 57 calls.

The murder of a young black man had provoked little attention. The murder of a white clergyman had moved the President and Congress to action. Surely that was a stark lesson about the problem of race in America.


On March 11, 2011, 46 years after Reeb’s death, the Anniston Star reported that the FBI is investigating the case. The bigot, who wielded the club that killed Jim Reeb, was sentenced to six months in prison.

Posted in Memoir, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An excerpt from Morgantown to San Francisco, a book I am working on:

The day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered, a group of African-American students gathered in Woodburn Circle and expressed their feelings to comfort one another. The WVU student government president, led a group of White student leaders and addressed the mourning students. He said something like, “Please tell me what I can do to help.” He didn’t respond when I asked, “Can they join your fraternity?”

Posted in Memoir, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

From Morgantown to San Francisco

An excerpt from Morgantown to San Francisco, a memoir I am working on. My most recent book, Damn Yankee Buttons, is available on

The Selma march was triggered by the Alabama state police murder of Jimmy Lee Jackson. Twenty-six-year-old Jackson had recently died in a Selma hospital of wound infection after being shot in the abdomen by a state cop.

Martin Luther King, Jr. led a subsequent march that crossed the bridge out of Selma. He invited ministers and others sympathetic to the civil rights movement to join him. 500 Unitarian-Universalist ministers answered the call. One was murdered.

My Peace Corps friend, Al Ulmer, drove one of those ministers, Unitarian-Universalist James Reeb, from Atlanta to Selma. That evening, Reeb and Clark Olsen and Orloff Miller, two other Unitarian-Universalist ministers, were attacked by white racists on a Selma sidewalk. Reeb was killed with a baseball bat to his head. An all-white, all-male Alabama jury found the three men innocent who killed Reeb.

James Reeb lived for a short time and in that time the attackers continued their terror.

Posted in Memoir, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Morgantown to San Francisco

This an excerpt from a rough draft of a memoir that I am writing called Morgantown to San Francisco:

If you dig people, whether they be straight or “hip,” here is a way to do it: Go to Yosemite Valley and pitch your tent in a straight camping area—you can distinguish straight from “hip” areas at a distance by the number of large campers parked in the area. The straights don’t really want to go camping, they take comforts of home to their camp ground—lawn chairs, radios and TV sets, canned food, table cloths, neat clothes and little flaming pots on poles to ward off mosquitos. They get dangerously close to bears with their cameras.

They want to be friendly. Give them a chance, be nice to their kids, put their stuff away when it rains, tell them how to protect their food from bears. They get good vibes and become interested in you, loan you their axe (just bought for this trip), give you food and even invite you over for dinner. After dinner they talk, their fears are revealed, and their prejudices slip out. If you are White, tell them of your good experiences with Blacks and your theories on why there are riots, etc., but give them plenty of time to talk. They’ll learn from you and you from them.     And one of them might be a cop from Sacramento, a young guy only two years on the force who thinks Blacks are “funny people” who never sleep, call the cops, then turn on them. But this cop also thinks he is crazy for working eight hours a day, buying insurance, paying for a house, etc., when he could be in the wilderness fishing and living. And he doesn’t think it’s a policeman’s job to put down student civil disobedience—how can police ever be looked to as someone who can help if they are seen with four-foot clubs beating people who don’t have clubs?” He thinks it is a policeman’s job to help people.

Posted in Memoir, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment


An excerpt from my book Sarvice Mountain:

Joe was on a roll. “Think about what happens around Christmas. The days quit getting shorter and start getting longer. The so-called pagans celebrated the hope of more sunshine and since the Christians were just recently pagans they continued to celebrate the winter solstice, the winter sun stop, and tucked the little baby Jesus right in there.”

“But why is Christmas on the twenty-fifth, isn’t the shortest day of the year a couple of days before that?” Junior asked the swarthy pagan.

“Well I figure the Christian bosses offered the twenty-fifth as a counter celebration kind of like the Soviet Union substituted a New Year celebration for Christmas. Or maybe the Pagans waited a few days after the shortest day of the year to make sure it was really happening. To make sure there was still hope. Maybe the twenty-fifth was their day too. They probably partied for a week or two and the exact day didn’t matter too much. Can you imagine? Early in human history they had no way of knowing for sure that the days weren’t just going to keep on getting shorter and shorter until all they had was darkness.”

The first day must have been a wonder—-Nobody knew what came next or how long it was to last.—-Everybody cried at Sunset the first time—- And waited up all night to see if day was coming back. by Ivan Norton Hunter

                                                                                                                        Ivan Norton Hunter

“Man”  Was Junior’s most consistent remark, almost in a whisper, with his mouth hanging open, his eyes wide, full of wonder like the first time he saw the northern lights or a jet fighter catapult off Storm Thurmond.

“When they decided that they were going to be saved from the shortening days, then my friend, they threw one of the biggest parties you ever saw. They had big feasts, invited all their friends, ate pigs and like pigs, got drunker than hoot owls, beat drums like crazy, danced to a frenzy and fucked anything that moved.”

Posted in My Novel, Uncategorized | 2 Comments


This is a memoir I am working on. Here is an excerpt:

My world accelerated its ugly slid into intolerance, accompanied with violence. In September, 1963, just two months before my Peace Corps experience in Nigeria was over, Klu Klux Klan terrorists bombed the 26th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Four little Sunday school girls were killed, another girl’s eye was put out, and over twenty other people were injured. My African students were puzzled, “How could that happen in America.” 

As I write this the voters of Alabama just elected Doug Jones to the United States Senate. Nearly forty years after the murders and destruction at the Birmingham church, Doug Jones had been the lead prosecutor in the successful prosecution of two of the Klan bigots who did the bombing at the Birmingham church.

With the votes of 98% of the African-American women, Democrat Jones defeated racist and Republican pedophile Roy Moore. Many Alabama republicans, although not bothered as much by his racism, could not vote for Republican pedophile Roy Moore.

Posted in Memoir, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment