16 -- The Michigan Daily - rnaay, September 17, 1999
The fourth installment of a six-part series mapping the past 100 years at the University
questions shape '50s
The Michigan Daily, May 1954
These headlines appeared on the front page of The Michigan Daily on May 11, 1954, - the day after the
University fired two professors who refused to cooperate with a federal inquiry into their political beliefs.
Communist paranoia leads
to firing of2'rfessors
Cold War, racial
By Kelly O'Connor
Daily Staff Reporter
In the days when few questioned the word
"God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, when the mid-
dle class ate dinner with Donna Reed and when
Americans hoped to see the country in their new
Chevrolets, prosperity seemed to have no end in
But along with the cookie-cutter houses of sub-
urbia, another, less-comfortable sentiment occu-
pied Americans' minds during the 1950s.
It was a time in which many Americans
believed that anyone deviating from the accepted
political beliefs -- democracy and capitalism -
posed a threat to the society they had worked hard
to build. World War 11 was not a distant memory
and most Americans wanted to avoid a repeat of
George Mason University Prof. Roger Wood
Wilkins, a student at the University of Michigan
during the '50s, said most of his peers were not
quick to stand up for their beliefs.
"We were called the silent generation,"
Wilkins said. "There was a lot of apathy, but I
think we were generally intimidated."
Playing on this national paranoia, Wisconsin
Sen. Joseph McCarthy lead a comprehensive
search for citizens involved with the Communist
party. U.S. Rep.Kit Clardy, McCarthy's cohort
and a Michigan native, held a seat on the House
Subcommittee on Un-American Activities and
decided to target his home state during his search
in May 1954.
The HUAC notified then-University President
Harlan Hatcher that several faculty members
would be questioned about possible ties to the
Communist party. Three faculty members and
two students were called before Clardy's com-
mittee. All refused to answer questions about
their political beliefs.
On May 10, 1954, Hatcher suspended the three fac-
ulty members because they refused to cooperate with.
H UAC's inquiry. Mathematics instructor Chandler
Davis, assistant biology Prof Clement Markert and
Medical pharmacology Prof. Mark Nickerson were,
suspended for several months with pay. The Senate
Advisory Committee on University Affairs appointed
committees to investigate each case.
In its report to Hatcher, the Executive
Committee of the Medical School said that
Nickerson "repeatedly stated that he believes in
the principles of Communism as taught when he
was a member ... The doubts and suspicions
raised by Dr. Nickerson's attitude have weakened
seriously the confidence of a large number of his
colleagues in him.
"... For these reasons, Dr. Nickerson's useful-
ness to this Medical School appears to be limited
and, therefore, the Executive Committee recom-
mends his dismissal."
On Aug. 26, 1954, Hatcher dismissed
Nickerson along with Davis, based on a similar
recommendation from the committee reviewing
his case. Markert was reinstated to his position
on the same day.
Wilkins was an officer on the student legisla-
ture at the time, and he helped push through a
motion' condemning Hatcher's actions. The
University's reaction was not what they hoped,
"We were incensed, but the administration in
those days was not too sensitive," he said. "It was
the typical adult way of dealing with things -
kids, go to bed. This is an adult matter."
Because the faculty members' firing occurred
during the summer, many students learned of it
only after it was over, said Peter Eckstein,
University alum and then-editor of The Michigan
Daily. And when they did find out, many were
enraged, he said.
"Anyone who had any sense of academic free-
dom cared," said Eckstein, who is now the
research director for the American Federation of
Labor. "There was no sense that these people had
misused their classroom leverage."
In a press release from the University News
Service issued the same day, Hatcher stressed
that the faculty member's dismissal was not an
attempt to block the professors' freedom of
The decision "does not involve any question of
the right to freely investigate, to arrive at or hold
unpopular views," he said. "It is a question of
relation to or involvement in a conspiratorial
movement, which ... would subvert the freedoms
and the liberties which we hold sacred."
No actions were taken against the two subpoe-
naed students. Both Davis and Nickerson moved
to Canada following their dismissal, where they
continued their careers in higher education.
In an attempt to educate the University communi-
ty about the events in 1954, SACUA initiated the
start of a lecture on the subject in 1991. The
Academic Freedom Lecture Fund was established
to select speakers and organize the lecture each
"We should have the right to think and teach
and be creative and have an environment that is
conducive to that --- a responsibility in some
cases," AFLF President Peggie Hollingsworth
said. "We're very privileged in this count-v "
last major Michigan sport
By Jacob Wheeler ered the squad game-by-game that and that would be bad," Kean said
Daily Sports Writer year. Codwell said the only media in "Hail to the Victors."
Young men hoping to play col- attention that he and Eaddy "They said this could be prevent-
lege basketball at Michigan today received was in the form of an inch- ed in football by the uniform worn.
are given or denied scholarships long Associated Press article. Tennis and track were non-contact
based on their athletic' abilities:' "At that time there may have sports. But in basketball there was
their speed, their ball handling been a tendency not to play up" too much contact between white
skills and their shooting touch - racial integration, he said. "It was skin and black skin," he said in
and little else. disappointing." Behee's book.
But it wasn't always that way. Eaddy and Codwell were trail- The University's conflicting atti-
Although the University takes blazers. By the end of the '50s, six tudes toward racial integration in
pride in being one of the nation's black players had lettered on the football compared to basketball
leading public universities and first hoops squad, and one, Memie had come to a head in the late
to break many racial and gender Burton Jr., was named the team's 1940s.
barriers, the school didn't allow co-captain in 1959. Lenny Ford, a standout end on
black players on its hoops squad But even that accomplishment the football team, wanted to play
until the early 1950s. didn't stir up much fanfare on cam- basketball as well, according to
'Not until the 1951-52 season, pus. Ellen Robinson, Burton's girl- Behee's book.
between the dawn of a new decade friend at the time, said race relations Other athletes speculated that
and a momentous civil rights move- were a subject that many whites did- Ford was not only good enough to
ment on the horizon, did' John n't talk about until years later make the hoops squad, but he prob-
Codwell, Jr. and Donald Eaddy "A lot of us did pioneering back ably could beat anyone on the team.
break the color barrier. then," Robinson said. "But we did- Yet his request to tryout was turned
Basketball was the last of n't get the recognition that we down
Michigan's three major mens' would today." A major turning point in racially
sports to add black players to its That pioneering was necessary to integrating the Michigan basketball
rosters, following baseball, track initiate change in a society charac- program finally came in the spring
and football. Six black players terized by racist undertones. of 1950 with a letter from John
earned letters before 1949. According to John Behee's 1974 Codwell Sr.
"Either times had- progressed book "Hail to the Victors," coaches The elder Codwell asked the
enough or the University had suf- of Big Ten basketball teams had a school if his son John, Jr. could
fered enough embarrassment that we gentleman's agreement' that take a shot at making the
were given fair shots," said Codwell, apparently existed well into the team, expressing
the son of Michigan alum who had 1940s and pressured each other not hope that
attended a racially segregated high to integrate their teams. race would not
school in Houston, Texas. In Behee's book, Dan Kean, a hinder his son's tryout.
"As part of a minority group we black tennis player for The accomplishments of pio-
were very proud to be pioneers," Michigan in 1934, sug- neers like Codwell, Eaddy and Burton
the elder Codwell said. gested that the have all but disappeared into the vast
Yet the athletes' breakthrough annals of Michigan basketball, among
received little attention. The the legacies of All-Americans, top
Michigan Daily failed to draw shooters and high jumpers.
attention to the fall of nature of basketball as a contact sport But they paved the way for the
Michigan basket- may have been the reason for its late Cazzie Russels, 'the Glenn Rices
ball's color integration compared to other sports. and the Chris Webbers of history,
barrier, even -."The story I got was that if at a time when basketball players
though staff ' -"blacks played, their skin would weren't measured solely on their
writers cov- J6rub against whites athletic abilities.
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At the Hop: Dorsey brothers entertain 1,300 on campus
By Curtis Zimmermann
Daily Arts Writer
The '50s - just mentioning the decade is enough to
draw images of black and white photos through one's
head. In these still frames we see the likes of Elvis, girls
;n r~r% 1 : irt :.,iin Pfar.. c -x .,n ,;C ih t ;h e ;
co, girdles and courses in shorthand.
One of the many places to grab lunch was Jumbo
Burger on the corner of South Fifth and Liberty streets,
and Pfeifers beer was dubbed the "No. I favorite of the
Great Lakes region."
At tIcime nnoulA ctch a matine ewith Grarnrv
all of 1,300 plus people in attendance had their names
printed in the newspaper, the real proof that this was a
big event was that the University extended female stu-
dents' curfews to 4 a.m. after the dance.
On March 15 of that year, the Berlin Philharmonic.
Orchestra's nerformance at Hill Auditorium drew some
By 1958, McDonalds was starting to make a dent in
the U.S. economy but not in the wallets of students with
the 15-cent hamburger and the $.10 fries. Also,
Budweiser was beginning to steal Pfeifers beer market.
Great national figures made their way to Ann Arbor
during the '50s. as they always have. On Nov. 18, then