Remembering the 1968 Democratic Convention On "The Wild Room"—Part One
Back in 1993â€”for the 25th anniversary of the 1968 conventionâ€”former WBEZ programmer Gary Covino devoted two episodes of the weekly free-form show “The Wild Room” to telling the story of the chaotic and violent events in Chicago, as well as the political and social turmoil of the time that made confrontations in the streets (and inside the convention hall itself) practically inevitable.
Along with his recordings of these two programs, Gary sent along this note...
"I was fourteen years old in 1968, and I followed all the news that year intently - especially about the war, the Democratic primaries and the convention. I have always felt that, in some basic way, what happened that year changed both my political orientation and my general notion of how the world works.
For the two Wild Room programs, I brought a lot of archival tape, some of the best writing about the convention, and a bit of music into WBEZ's run-down (but comfortable) old studio on West Adams Street, and just followed the material where it led me.
The first program features more of the writing, while the second contains the most vivid tape. But each show is a mixture of elements, and you'll hear from all of the actors in the drama - the candidates, the politicians, the protestors, the delegates, the reporters and the police. You'll hear the voices of Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson, Allard Lowenstein, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Richard J. Daley, Dr. Quentin Young and dozens more. And you'll hear the words of remarkable writers like Norman Mailer and Arthur Miller. There's even a song by Phil Ochs - and when was the last time you heard one of those?
Each of these programs is an hour long. If you're too busy to listen to every single minute, then I would suggest you listen to the other episode from the 28-minute mark.
Finally, for those of you who are as fascinated by the events of 1968 as I am, I want to suggest three books that are definitely worth checking out.
The first - and the easiest to find - is Norman Mailer's classic Miami and the Siege of Chicago.
The second is a chronicle of the 1968 campaign written by three British journalists. I have long considered this to be the single best book ever written about any Presidential race. It has excellent chapters about the Democratic convention, as well as what happened on the streets (and the subsequent effort to change the overwhelmingly negative public perception of the actions of the police). It's called An American Melodrama: The Presidential Campaign of 1968.
A thin little volume called Law and Disorder: The Chicago Convention and Its Aftermath has many dramatic pictures, and writing from the likes of I.F. Stone, Studs Terkel, Murray Kempton and William Styron. You may have to ask your local library to get this one for you.
Thanks for reading this far. And thanks for listening!"