August 28, 1968: People Got to Be Free

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(Pictured: police drag away a protester at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.)

August 28, 1968, was a Wednesday. After delegates to the Democratic National Convention vote down a proposed peace plank in the party platform, protests continue in downtown Chicago. Tonight, the city’s police superintendent orders streets cleared, and police attack protesters with clubs and tear gas. TV cameras film about 17 minutes of the melee, which takes place while candidates’ names are being placed in nomination; protesters chant “the whole world is watching.” During his speech nominating Senator George McGovern, Senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut denounces “Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago,” which prompts Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to shout an obscenity-laden response from the Illinois delegation. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey wins the nomination on the first ballot. Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern also receive votes, as do New York favorite-son candidate Channing Phillips, North Carolina governor Dan Moore, and Senator Ted Kennedy. University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant gets 1.5 delegate votes; Alabama governor George Wallace gets one-half vote, as does Georgia Democratic Party chairman James H. Gray.

Before convention coverage begins on the networks tonight, their evening newscasts devote a great deal of time to events in Chicago. The second-biggest story on this day is from Czechoslovakia, which was invaded by the Soviet Union one week ago to crush the so-called “Prague Spring” liberalization movement. After being arrested and sent to Moscow last week, Czech leader Alexander Dubcek returned to Prague yesterday, promising to curtail his reforms. In a few months, he will be removed as First Secretary and replaced by a Communist hardliner. The networks also report on the assassination in Guatemala City of John Gordon Mein, U.S. ambassador to Guatemala, shot fleeing from rebels who had kidnapped him, and on the health of former president Dwight Eisenhower, who suffered his sixth heart attack earlier this month.

Thirteen games are played in the majors today, including three doubleheaders. The Cubs split with the Dodgers, the Reds take two from the Mets, and the Braves sweep the Phillies. In Detroit, the American League-leading Tigers beat the Angels 6-1; Denny McLain pitches a complete game to run his season record to 26-and-5. The Cardinals continue to lead the National League after an 8-1 win over the Pirates. Bob Gibson also pitches a complete game and gets his 19th win.

The New York Times publishes a death notice for Lamont Washington, who played the role of Hud in the New York production of Hair. He died yesterday of burns and internal injuries sustained trying to escape an apartment fire on August 10. The Grateful Dead plays San Francisco, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience plays Providence, Rhode Island. The Jefferson Airplane plays Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Who plays Santa Monica, California. In Hollywood, Elvis Presley finishes work on the movie Charro, which will be released next spring. In Nashville, singer Tammy Wynette is working at the Quonset Hut Studio with producer Billy Sherrill and a group of top session players. They record a song she and Sherrill finished writing earlier tonight, but Wynette dislikes her performance and will later ask Sherrill not to release it. He will do so anyway. “Stand by Your Man” will become one of country music’s most iconic hits.

At KOIL in Omaha, “People Got to be Free” by the Rascals takes over the #1 spot from Jose Feliciano’s “Light My Fire,” which slips to #2. “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream is #3. KOIL’s most-requested song of the week, “1-2-3 Red Light” by the 1910 Fruitgum Company, moves to #7 from #16. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “You’re All I Need to Get By” is also new in the Top 10. The station charts 50 records; the biggest mover on the chart is “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley, up 13 spots to #32. New songs on the list include the Beatles’ “Revolution,” “I Met Her in Church” by the Box Tops, and a cover of “Like a Rolling Stone” by bluegrass pickers Flatt and Scruggs.

Perspective From the Present: This day could very well have been my first day of third grade, but there’s no way to know for sure. I do remember that we watched convention coverage from Chicago at our house that night, and we saw the rioting in the streets. I wish I could remember what I thought about it, or what my parents said about it, but after a half-century, there’s no way to know for sure about that, either.

Read more about events of 1968 this week at The Hits Just Keep on Comin’. Watch for another 1968 post here on Thursday.

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One thought on “August 28, 1968: People Got to Be Free

  1. This is not of general interest, I know, but John Gordon Mein was an alum of my place of employment. Every January the college inducts a few folks into its Hall of Fame, and I remember hearing his name and story at one of those services, well over a decade ago.

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