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In Memorium

March 19, 2020

Full disclosure: I have watched a lot of TV award shows in my time. I appreciate most everything about them, but I enjoy the “In Memorium” section the most; not because I’m macabre but because it reminds me of those who have passed and the mark they left on their field.

In December & January, three narrators from our Oral History Program (OHP) passed away. With over 1,900 narrators in our collection, I don’t doubt this many deaths in this close succession has happened before, but this marks the first time it has occurred on my watch. So, here’s an OHP “In Memorium.”

YOUNG, M. Crawford (1931-2020); Professor of Political Science; At UW: 1963-2000 (emeritus 2000-2020)

University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives Images S06680

I never interviewed Crawford Young, but my predecessor Barry Teicher did. Teicher interviewed him for 13 hours from late 2003 through early 2004. As one might imagine (or know), a lot of topics can be covered in that amount of audio. Since Young served as chair of the Political Science Department during the Vietnam Era and since the University Archives has been commemorating the 50th anniversary of many Vietnam Era events, those sections intrigued me the most. Here’s an example of one of them:

October 24, 2003 session

(Below is a summary of the audio excerpt for those who are unable to listen to the recording)

00:53:00 In the 1960s, he added, the department expanded so rapidly that young faculty began to outnumber senior faculty, and consequently the socialization process was weakened. This, together with the anti-Vietnam student protest movement, placed great stress on the department. The department survived this period remarkably well.

While I never interviewed Young, I became acquainted with him through his effort to document his wife’s
(Rebecca) history by re-acquainting himself with her oral history and to help record the oral history of his
colleagues in the African Studies Program. Though we never socialized or interacted in any other way then via oral history, I always enjoyed our visits, taking more from him than I offered.

GOLDSTEIN, Herman (1931-2019); Professor at Law School; At UW: 1965-1994 (emeritus 1994-2020)

University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives Images S14549

Unlike Young, I recorded the oral history with Goldstein. In late 2016/early 2017, we met in his apartment on Madison’s Westside seven times. As with Young, Goldstein covered much material in those 7.5 hours of recording, focusing much of it on his pioneering and career-long efforts with “problem-oriented policing.” But also, as with Young, I appreciated his reflections about the Vietnam Era on campus. Here’s a clip of one of his Vietnam-era anecdotes.

January 6, 2017 session

(Below is a summary of the audio excerpt for those who are unable to listen to the recording)

00:13:13 HG cannot specifically recall the day he became “involved”, but it came from his continued relationship with Ralph Hanson. They were together the day after “Dow,” trying to figure out where to go from there. From the day of the CIA protest on, HG found himself spending time every day dwelling on these issues, including role of the police, and discussing them with the administration. HG says they were ill-prepared for anything like what happened. Once campus police found themselves in an overwhelming situation, decision was made by Ralph, the Chancellor, etc. that they had to turn to MPD for help. Relationships had not been established between university administration and city police department. Police responded like they would to a brawl. No mention of firearms. On “Dow” day the police ultimately resorted to the use of tear gas. HG believes no plan had been put in place for dealing with such an event prior to its occurrence. Only thing that went into strategy was caution encouraged by Chief Embry. The predictably primitive nature of the response is explained by this absence of strategy/protocol/policy.

On every occasion, Herman met me at his apartment door and before we started, he’d make sure I had a hot cup of tea for my listen. I talked with him a few times in the two-plus years between our last session and his passing. As with the recorded sessions, his memory and his interest in preserving his history stood out. I hope his oral history will stand as a testament to a life well lived.

McCrea, Ron (1943-2019); Journalist, Editor, Press Secretary for Governor Earl; At UW: N/A

Box 4. Ron McCrea papers (1969-1982). UW-Madison Archives, Madison Wisconsin. Accessed December 17, 2019.

My second oral history at UW was conducted with Ron McCrea. And his interview stood as the first in our LGBTQ Oral History Project. During our first early 2008 sessions, and as I wrote in the abstract to his oral history, he “offered stories and memories of his life, through the prism of gay activism.” Since McCrea held no formal ties to UW-Madison, I feature one oral history excerpt about his (and his fellow activists) role in building and maintaining a Madison community of gay men.

January 23, 2008 session

(Below is a summary of the audio excerpt for those who are unable to listen to the recording)

62:30 McCrea wanted to finish this interview with his thoughts about the gay movement in Madison. He felt they were reformers not radicals, and they used the political process. He offered examples of those who worked with straight political and local leaders to advance changes in laws and attitudes. He listed both gay and straight people, such as Jim Yeadon, Reverend Art Lloyd, David Adamanty, Governor Lucey, and others. He said, “There were no marches, because we did not need them.” There were reasons to march, McCrea noted, but change happened within the local, political system. He returned to the idea that the street fight outside The Keg led to change within the system: Gay and gay-friendly people worked within the system to open and run gay drinking/dancing halls. This story led to McCrea mentioning Dick Wagner as a long-time politico both in elected politics and behind the scenes.

After we concluded our sessions and said our goodbyes, I saw McCrea one other time, on campus probably 4 years ago now. He asked about the project, and during our brief chat, I reminded him that he had restricted his oral history to on-campus access only. He looked at me and said, “since the world’s different now, perhaps we should do something about that.” While I never did put his interview online, I will now … okay later this year. Those who take the time to listen to it (or the other two) will discover oral history’s power: hearing someone, in their own voice, deeply reflecting on their life and times.

As I said or alluded to above, outside of their oral history interviews, I never tried to befriend any of these narrators. Of course, thanks to their oral history, I never needed to; they already felt like my friends. So, while my mourning pales in comparison to those touched and loved by Young, Goldstein, and McCrea, I do feel sad that each has left “this mortal coil.” But I take solace in the fact that through oral history, I was given the chance to get to know them.

Troy Reeves, UW-Madison Oral History Program

Note: Only Goldstein’s interview is online. To access either McCrea’s or Young’s oral history, please contact the OHP either via phone (608-890-1899) or email (uwarchiv@library.wisc.edu). And others on campus have written online pieces honoring all three. UW News did a feature on Goldstein & Young, and our own LGBTQ Archives Tumblr offered a remembrance of McCrea.