Category Archives: 20th century.

PART 3 – Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Chicago Freedom Movement: the Marches and Rallies of Summer 1966.

August 5, 2016 – by John P. Walsh.

Released on July 4, 1966 The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1966 and stayed there for three consecutive weeks.1 “Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty, been down, isn’t it a pity, doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city. All around, people looking half dead, walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head…” 

In Chicago in 1966 Dr. King promised a summer of nonviolence but that didn’t stop a white Chicago policeman from shooting and killing a 21-year-old Puerto Rican on June 10, 1966 and sparking a riot of the victim’s neighbors who looted stores, torched squad cars and assaulted firefighters called out to quell the blazes. A month earlier Stokely Carmichael, elected by a razor-thin margin over John Lewis to lead the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, pronounced a new Black Power movement that ended that organization’s interracial efforts.

While the Chicago Freedom Movement remained staunchly interracial King warned Daley on July 9, 1966 that the mayor’s aloofness towards fundamental improvements for African-Americans in Chicago could lead to more radical black groups making their own demands. Since black Chicagoans were, despite a fair housing ordinance, mostly restricted to the ghetto where landlords charged higher rents to a captive market, King’s allies believed open access to Chicago’s real estate market was necessary to tackle larger problems of slums, unemployment, and underprivileged schools.

Chicago,Illinois summer 1966.(AP Photo)

Chicago, Illinois, summer 1966 (AP Photo). In the foreground is the Shangri-La with its parking garage and deck at 222 N. State Street. Billed on its matchbooks as “the world’s most romantic restaurant” the Far Eastern/Polynesian themed establishment opened in 1944 and closed in 1968.  The 65-story Marina Towers (background) opened in 1963. When completed in 1968 the twin towers were both the tallest residential buildings and the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world.

Released on July 4, 1966, The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1966 and stayed there for three consecutive weeks.

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Mayor Richard J. Daley views the Chicago skyline in 1966 from atop the new Daley Center. Daley was focused on downtown development in the mid-1960’s and viewed King largely as an outsider with his own political agenda who simplified complex urban social problems for which Chicago was not completely at fault.

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Martin Luther King Jr., with Stokely Carmichael in Mississippi in 1966. Although King saw Carmichael as a most promising young leader, in May 1966 Carmichael declared a new Black Power movement that ended the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s interracial efforts. The Chicago Freedom Movement to which King was attached stayed staunchly interracial.

Dr. King exits the tenement apartment at 1550 S. Hamlin on Chicago's West Side where his family stayed in 1966

Dr. King exits the tenement apartment at 1550 S. Hamlin on Chicago’s West Side where his family stayed during the Chicago Freedom Movement in 1966. American Friends Service Committee found that white and black families paid about the same in monthly rent but whites earned half as much more as what blacks earned. They found that for the same money blacks on average lived in about 15% less space (3.35 to 3.95 rooms). King looked to solve these and other socioeconomic discrepancies in his 1966 Chicago sojourn.

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1550 S. Hamlin on Chicago’s West Side, the redeveloped site where King and his family stayed during the Chicago Freedom Movement in 1966. Screenshot October 29, 2018.

Mathias “Paddy” Bauler who in 1955 famously quipped that “Chicago ain’t ready for a reform mayor”2 was still an active Northside Chicago alderman in 1966. To some Chicagoans, Bauler’s colorful quip should have been Mayor Daley’s prevailing opinion towards open housing. In July and August 1966 King’s street marches into the white-only neighborhoods of Gage Park, Marquette Park and Chicago Lawn3 were intended to showcase the Chicago Freedom Movement’s reform message of open housing.

Following a rally at Soldier Field on Sunday, July 10, 1966 where King spoke to thousands of supporters including these words, “we will no longer sit idly by in agonizing deprivation and wait on others to provide our freedom,”4 he then led thousands on a march to City Hall. Marching peacfully three miles from the lakefront into downtown, King posted the Chicago Freedom Movement’s fourteen demands for a racially open city at City Hall. The next day Daley met with King but the pair, who personally respected one another, floundered at an impasse.

King was impatient for direct action but Daley was passive and noncommittal. Afterwards King made clear to Daley that these were 14 demands, not suggestions. From Daley’s viewpoint, King was a public relations disaster for Chicago because he was an outsider articulating simple solutions to complex and not always only local social problems. King indicated an inclination that it was time to march into the neighborhoods.

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Sunday, July 10, 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. delivers a 12-page speech at a rally for civil rights at Soldier Field in Chicago that drew tens of thousands of supporters of open housing, better education and increased employment opportunities for the city’s black community. Photo: the Sun-Times archives.

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The crowd and Dr. King at the Chicago Freedom Movement rally on Sunday, July 10, 1966, at Soldier Field. Photograph by Bernard Kleina.

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Following a rally for civil rights at Soldier Field in Chicago where Dr. King addressed the crowd on Sunday, July 10, 1966, thousands marched through downtown Chicago to City Hall.

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The march ended when the list of demands was nailed to the door of Chicago’s City Hall.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Chicago’s City Hall on July 10, 1966.

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King met with a passive and noncommittal Daley in City Hall on Monday, July 11, 1966 (this photo, March 24, 1966). The antagonists met infrequently in 1966 to address The Chicago Freedom Movement’s issues and each time King left with vague, piecemeal promises for change.

On July 14, 1966, three days after the Daley-King meeting, a drifter named Richard Speck tortured, raped, and murdered eight female student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital on the south side of Chicago. Speck, born in an Illinois farm town in 1941, lived in Dallas for the last 15 years and, running from the law there, only arrived into Chicago in April 1966. In the pall of a July heatwave, the serial killer was on the loose in the city for three days – a police sketch plastered everywhere in newspapers and on TV – until he was arrested on July 17, 1966. These gruesome killings were called “The Crime of the Century” and added panic, gloom and a general fear to an already tense city.5

Two weeks later, on August 1, 1966, in Austin, Texas, Charles Whitman, shot 49 victims from the bell tower of the University of Texas, killing 17 – and brought the term “mass shooting” into the American popular discourse.

These violent crimes precipitated ramped-up tension in Chicago and the nation in the hot and muggy summer of 1966. Already gripped by an escalating Vietnam War as well as massive civil rights movements, women’s rights movements, youth counter-cultural movements, and even radical church reform (“Vatican II”) movements, American society was swiftly and increasingly wrapped into a tight fist of revolutionary social change whose resistance to it tended to exacerbate the possibility of what King called “social disaster.”

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Violent crimes of mass murderers Richard Speck in Chicago in midJuly 1966 and Charles Whitman in Texas in August 1966 worked to ramp-up tension people felt in Chicago during the long, hot summer of 1966.

Speck’s horrendous crimes came in the same week when Chicago police shot and killed two black Chicagoans, including a pregnant 14-year-old girl, during riots on the predominantly black West Side that Daley blamed on King. King denied any such connection and told Daley that if it wasn’t for the Chicago Freedom Movement’s preaching nonviolence those riots would have mushroomed into another Watts. To King’s way of thinking these disturbances among a swath of the city’s population should serve as the clarion call to Daley to act boldly on behalf of the black community and begin to enact the 14 demands brought to him to make Chicago a racially open city.6

Instead Daley’s response was to mobilize 4,000 members of the National Guard to restore law and order. In the wake of the violence—with police brutality blamed by the police on the rioters—another meeting between Daley and King took place where they agreed on a handful of reforms– (1) to establish a citizen’s advisory committee on police and community relations; (2) that grassroots workers go door to door in riot-affected areas to advise calm; and, (3) a new investment to build more swimming pools in black areas.

King was unimpressed with what he considered Daley’s lackadaisical approach and local media mocked the mayor’s feeble plan.

For his part, King started “walking,” that is, organizing marches into the city’s largely white neighborhoods adjacent to black ones so to highlight the need for open housing. KIng also re-started talks with Chicago gang members to convince them to forsake violence and join his nonviolent racially integrated movement.7

Since Daley viewed Chicago as having more accomplishments than problems in the area of race relations and that, further, the Mayor publicly considered the outsider King to be a selfish agitator, many white residents of soon-to-be-marched-upon city neighborhoods assumed Daley would take their side.

But Daley’s politics of law and order and incremental social change succeeded in alienating almost everyone. In the Chicago mayoral election in 1967 black voter turnout and support for Daley disappeared and did not return for him in subsequent mayoral contests in 1971 or 1975. Meanwhile, white residents felt the fatal sting of being “betrayed”by the city powers as Daley did not stop the marches from going forward.

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The north edge of Marquette Park in early 2016. Photograph by author.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, center, and a Chicago building janitor, Robert DeBose, left, exchange words on the eviction of two families from the building. DeBose contended the families were evicted for not paying rent. He said many of the building's problems were caused by people who refused to keep it clean.

The Rev. Martin Luther King and Chicago building janitor Robert DeBose, left, discuss the eviction of families from the building. DeBose contended the families were evicted for not paying rent.

The first march was on Saturday, July 16, 1966 when a group of 120 demonstrators marched from Englewood into Marquette Park “for a picnic.” The next day, Sunday, July 17, 1966 about 200 marchers, taunted by neighborhood whites, held a prayer vigil outside a Gage Park church. Almost two weeks later, on Thursday, July 28, 1966, protesters began an all-night vigil at 63rd Street and Kedzie Avenue at a realty company that systematically discriminated against black buyers looking to move into Gage Park. The realtors had been reported to the Chicago Commission on Human Relations but nothing happened. White counter demonstrators appeared and with nightfall Chicago police struck a deal for the lawful open housing (or open occupancy) protesters to file into paddy wagons for safe escort back to the ghetto.

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Dr. King attended two marches in Marquette Park on August 5, 1966 and, shown here, South Deering on August 21, 1966.

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Movement leaders Al Raby (left), James Bevel (second from right) and Jesse Jackson (center) protest in front of the Chicago Real Estate Board in downtown Chicago.

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Chicago Lawn white hecklers during a Chicago Freedom Movement march in summer 1966.

Chicago Police in Marquette Park on August 5, 1966.

Chicago Police in Marquette Park on August 5, 1966. Their presence did not prevent severe rioting by white mobs that day.

On July 30, 1966 about 250 open housing protesters, furious about the recent night’s humiliation, looked to return to the same southwest side intersection. They were met by bottles and rocks thrown by whites so that the protesters retreated again east of Ashland Avenue into Englewood. When demonstrators marched out of Englewood again on July 31, 1966 more than 500 whites met them as the protesters crossed Ashland Avenue on 63rd Street. Armed with cherry bombs, rocks, bricks, and bottles, the surly mob grew to over 4,000 whites where they burned cars and injured around 50 open-occupancy protesters, including a first grade teacher hit by a projectile.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Jesse Jackson in Chicago. King holds a Chicago Daily News paper with a headline that reads "City Seeks To Cut Marches.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Jesse Jackson in Chicago. King holds a Chicago Daily News with a headline that reads “City Seeks To Cut Marches.”

On August 2, 1966, Daley met with white homeowner groups from the southwest side. In addition for calling for law and order from blacks and whites, the mayor acknowledged the open housing protesters had a legal right to march. Daley, through an intermediary, sent King modest housing improvement and integration proposals which King rejected and Daley implemented anyway. Daley next sent to an embattled King some local black aldermen who opposed the Chicago Freedom Movement but carried more substantial housing and employment offers from City Hall. The city government hoped that King, who was known to be looking for a way out of Chicago with a tangible victory, might accept a negotiated pact and call an end to the campaign. With these serious talks going on between Daley and King, the late summer marches for open housing continued under an increasingly vicious white backlash.

A mob attacks a car during the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.s Aug. 5, 1966march to Marquette Park shortly. Bernard Kleina

A white mob attacks a car during the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s August. 5, 1966 march to Marquette Park. Photo by Bernard Kleina.

White rioters at Clark gas station in Marquette Park on August 5, 1966.

White rioters encountering Chicago police at a Clark gas station in Marquette Park on August 5, 1966. A Confederate flag is on the right. Photo by Bernard Kleina.

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Whites moving east on 63rd Street to confront marchers on the way to Marquette Park on August 5, 1966. The Clark gas station in the background is the site of the photos by Bernard Kleina.

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The infrastructure of the former Clark gas station still exists today on 63rd street (July 2018). Screen shot dated October 29, 2018.

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The old Clark gas station looking east on 63rd Street at Whipple. Screenshot October 29, 2018.

On Friday, August 5, 1966, Al Raby and Mahalia Jackson led a group of about 500 open occupancy protesters into Marquette Park in south Chicago Lawn. A white mob of over 10,000 had gathered there and verbally abused the marchers and then turned physically violent. King, who up to this point had not participated in these marches, arrived and joined the march on the north side of the park. It was here, between Francisco and Mozart Streets south of Marquette Road that Martin Luther King was struck in the head behind the right ear by a baseball-sized rock and felled to one knee.

The open housing marchers, angry and disgusted, made their way the short distance out of the park and towards 63rd and Kedzie where King dodged a knife thrown at him. The crowd began to shout “Kill him!” as well as other racially charged epithets and about 2,500 whites now started throwing bottles, burned cars, smashed bus windows and clashed with police for the next five hours.

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King with (from left) Mahalia Jackson, Jesse Jackson, and Al Raby at the New Friendship Baptist Church at 848 W 71st St in Chicago —the staging point for the 3 and a half miles walk to Marquette Park —on August 4, 1966. Photo: Chicago Tribune.

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Marching south down Kedzie Avenue to Marquette Park in Chicago on August 5, 1966. Bourne Chapel is located at 6541 S. Kedzie, just two blocks from the park. Today the funeral home is gone. The yellow-brick building housing Tony’s Barber Shop in 1966 is still there today, though the barber shop business is gone. Photo by Bernard Kleina.

Bourne chapel 6541 S. Kedzie Chicago July 2018.
King after being struck by a rock at the August 5 protest. PHOTO CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. falls after being struck by a rock from a taunting white mob in Marquette Park in Chicago on August 5, 1966. King would also dodge a knife hurled at him in the park. King soberly reacted by saying: “Oh, I’ve been hit so many times I’m immune to it.”

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Vandals overturn a car before the August 5 march in Marquette Park. Photograph by Jim Klepitsch.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with supporters in Marquette Park shortly after someone hurled a rock or brick that hit him in the head. Bernard Kleina

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with supporters in Marquette Park shortly after someone hurled a rock that hit him in the head. Photo by Bernard Kleina.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s comments on that day’s violence entered the annals of civil rights and American history and marks a failing grade for Chicago: “I’ve been in many demonstrations across the south, but I can say I have never seen – even in Mississippi and Alabama – mobs as hostile and hate-filled as I’ve seen in Chicago. I think the people from Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate.”9

A permanent memorial to Dr. King and the Chicago Freedom Movement was erected in Marquette Park on August 5, 2016 for the 50th anniversary of the Marquette Park marches. This MLK Living Memorial at 67th Street and Kedzie Avenue includes a bench to contemplate the 300 tiles created by Chicagoans of all ages representing their understanding of “Home” and representations of a diverse community who continue to work to advance Dr. King’s vision of peace and justice.

During a news conference in Chicago on Sept. 15, 1966, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, called the 10-point open housing agreement reached with Mayor Richard Daley and other civic, business and religious leaders "a one-round victory in a 15-round battle." King had named Chicago his first target in the North for racial equality the previous winter.

In Chicago on Sept. 15, 1966, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, characterized an open housing agreement reached with Mayor Richard Daley and civic, business and religious leaders “a one-round victory.” King had named Chicago his first target in the North for racial equality in January 1966.

NOTES:

  1. The Lovin’ Spoonful – Hot 100″Billboard(Nielsen) 78 (33): 22. 1966-08-13.
  2. On Mathias “Paddy” Bauler – http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/527.html; Challenging the Daley Machine: A Chicago Alderman’s Memoir,  Leon M. Despres and Kenan Heise, Northwestern University Press, 2005, 3.
  3. In 1960 virtually no blacks – only 7 according to that year’s U.S. Census– lived among a white population of 100,000 in Gage Park/Chicago Lawn/Marquette Park areas – cited in American Pharoah: Mayor Richard J. Daley His Battle for Chicago and the Nation, Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor, Little Brown and Company, New York, 2000, p. 392. Fifty years after the Marquette Park march in 2016, the surrounding neighborhood of Chicago Lawn is a very different place from the all-white enclave King encountered. Whites now account for just 4.5 percent of the neighborhood’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. African-Americans make up 49 percent and Hispanics 45 percent –http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/mitchell-rev-martin-luther-king-still-bringing-us-together/- retrieved August 5, 2016.
  4. Soldier field rally quote- http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/document/speech-chicago-freedom-movement-rally# – retrieved August 5, 2016.
  5. On Speck murders – see http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1986-07-06/features/8602180462_1_richard-speck-cab-driver-bags – (and following) retrieved August 5, 2016; See The Crime of the Century: Richard Speck and the  Murders that Shocked the Nation,” Dennis L. Breo and William J. Martin, 2016, Skyhorse Publishing.
  6. Results of West Side riots – American Pharoah, p. 389; Substance of 14 demands – Ibid., p. 385.
  7. Media mock Daley’s plan and King re-engages gang members– Ibid., 389-391.
  8. Black voter support declines – Black Politics in Chicago, William J. Grimshaw, Loyola University Presas, 1980, p. 25; whites feel “betrayed” – American Pharoah, p. 394.
  9. American Pharoah, p. 392-396 and http://sites.middlebury.edu/chicagofreedommovement/don-rose/ – retrieved August 5, 2016.
  10. C.T. Vivian quotation and text below- Image is Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0.) SOURCE: https://aha.confex.com/aha/2012/webprogram/Paper9589.html

Chicago public school teacher Al Raby (left) of the CCCO and Edwin “Bill” Berry (right) of the Chicago Urban League inspect the open-housing agreement reached in Chicago in late August 1966 with Ross Beatty (center) of the Chicago Real Estate Board. It contained mostly broad volunteer promises for modest integration in all Chicago neighborhoods by the end of 1967, a mayoral election year. At an August 26, 1966 meeting at a downtown hotel with King and Daley both present — and after city faith leaders promised their resolute support of the agreement — Ross Beatty only tepidly endorsed the plan: “Well,” he confessed, “we’ll do all we can, but I don’t know how I can do it.”

If you liked this blog article, PART 3 – Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Chicago Freedom Movement: the Marches and Rallies of Summer 1966 links to Part 1 and Part 2 in the series are provided here:

I came to see that so many people who supported, morally and even financially, what we were doing in Birmingham and Selma were really outraged against the extremist behavior of Bull Connor and Jim Clark toward Negroes rather than believing in genuine equality for Negroes. And I think this is what we’ve gotta see now, and this is what makes the struggle much more difficult. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), “The Other America” speech, Stanford University, April 14, 1967.

We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of the tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), Letter From Birmingham Jail, 1963.

I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), Letter From Birmingham Jail, 1963.

I hope that the president didn’t mean to equate nonviolent demonstrations with a riot, and I think it is time for this country to see the distinction between the two…I think demonstrations must continue, but I think riots must end. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), interview from Chicago with Meet The Press, August 21, 1966. Cited in The Eclipse of Equality: Arguing America on Meet the Press, Solon Simmons, Stanford University Press, 2013, p. 160-61.

I contend that we are not doing more harm than good in demonstrations, because I think demonstrations serve the purpose of bringing the issues out in the open. I have never felt that demonstrations could actually solve the problem. They dramatize the existence of certain social ills that could very easily be ignored if you did not have demonstrations. I think the initial reaction to demonstrations is always negative….Ultimately society must condemn the robber and not the robbed. It must protect the robbed, and this is where we are in these demonstrations, and I am still convinced that there is nothing more powerful to dramatize a social evil than the tramp, tramp of marching feet. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), interview from Chicago with Richard Valeriani (NBC News), August 9, 1966. Cited in The Eclipse of Equality: Arguing America on Meet the Press, Solon Simmons, Stanford University Press, 2013, p. 161.

Nonviolence is the only honorable way of dealing with social change, because if we are wrong, nobody gets hurt but us. And if we are right, more people will participate in determining their own destinies than ever before. Rev. C.T. Vivian (1924-2020), American minister, author, and civil rights leader.

Vivian attended Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois, where he worked as the sports editor for the student newspaper. In 1987 Vivian received an honorary doctorate from WIU. His career as an activist began in Peoria, Illinois, where he participated in sit-in demonstrations to successfully integrate Barton’s Cafeteria in 1947. He served with Dr. King and joined his executive staff where he served as the national director of affiliates for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

In the mid1960’s Vivian organized and directed efforts to re-evaluate activist networks and goals and the ideology and practice of Black Power, as well as the role of Christian faith among its participants. In Chicago in 1965, Rev. C.T. Vivian became Director of Fellowships and Internships of the Urban Training Center (UTC) for Christian Mission in Chicago. Founded with a grant from the Ford Foundation in 1963 to train African American Christian pastors and organizers—Rev. Jesse Jackson was among the first 19 men trained under Vivian’s program at the UTC in its first year—the organization considered new dimensions to protest movements in Chicago concerned with Black power, Black identity and Black unity. By means of lectures, readings, discussions and nonviolent training exercises such as “the Plunge” where participants had to survive on their own for seven days without access to housing, food, or other resources, the organization existed to help its participants to seeks ways to take power from structures which affect their lives particularly on the West and South Sides of Chicago. In 1970 Vivian became the first of King’s staff to write a book based on his experiences in the civil rights movement, entitled Black Power and the American Myth.

Vivian eventually became director of the Urban Theological Institute at Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center, a consortium of African-American seminaries, and was board chair of Capitol City Bank, a minority-owned bank with several branches in Georgia. Through the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute founded in 2008, he continued to do the kind of work he did in Chicago facilitating mainly youth seeking discerned strategies for their material and spiritual goals, as he fostered innovative leadership and career development for at-risk youth and college graduates. In 2013, President Obama awarded Vivian the Presidential Medal of Freedom. C.T. Vivian died on July 17, 2020 at 95 years old.

History and reportage of the amazing natural news event of May 18, 1980: the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

By John P. Walsh, May 18, 2016.

“Nobody lies about her lodestone any more. She burned and destroyed the whole park! Killed people too – what a pity! Only scientists are out there now. What’s there to see, dear? Isn’t it all in ruins?”

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The Mount St. Helens eruption, May 18, 1980. This image is in the public domain in the United States because it only contains materials that originally came from the USGS.

This is what the lady innkeeper told me in Portland, Oregon, before I set out in the car one early morning in July 1991 to visit the crater.

“It’s a pity she blew. It was such a pretty mountain before. WAS, I say. The kids loved camping at its base. It was so easy for them to get in and out. Then she blew and changed everything.”

I waved my good-byes and started the two-hour drive.

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As seen from Spirit Lake, Mount St. Helens in 1980 BEFORE the eruption on May 18, 1980. United States Forest Service (USFS) photo by Jim Nieland. USGS/Public domain.

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Earthquakes, avalanches and a ten-minute eruption on May 18, 1980 toppled nearly 4,000 feet from the mountain summit. Author’s collection.

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In April 1980 a bulge developed on the north side of Mt. St. Helens as magma pushed up inside it. View from the northeast. Photo by Peter Lipman. USGS/Public domain.

Phreatic or steam-blast eruption from the summit crater of Mount St. Helens on April 6, 1980. Aerial view to the southwest. The ash-laden cloud surrounds and obscures a finger-like ash column with an upper white cloud formed by atmospheric condensation of water vapor. USGS/Public domain.

At 8:32 a.m. on Sunday, May 18, 1980, an earthquake followed by a landslide and near simultaneous volcanic blast changed forever – and in less than 10 minutes – a Cascades landscape of 230 square miles. Months before the unexpected blast, volcano watchers had camped near the mountain, including scientists and photographers, who were interested to gauge its recent unusual seismic and geological activity and capture what the mountain may do. Local property owners pressured authorities to be let back into their homes during this uncertain and, as it turned out, critically dangerous waiting period. Especially good weather brought out an extra contingent of weekend campers, backpackers and curiosity seekers to the mountain, many from Portland only 70 miles away.

Eruption Of Mt. St. Helens From Portland

Eruption Of Mt. St. Helens From Portland, ending 123 years of dormancy.

Everybody I talked to during my 1991 visit remembered 83-year-old Harry Randall Truman who lived by the mountain for over half his life and refused to leave in the days and weeks before the May 18, 1980 eruption. Not sure whether the mountain would blow or not, Truman, who served in the U.S. military in Europe in World War One, resigned himself to the mountain’s fiery whims. When the 1000-story high burbling volcano finally did blow, the avalanche and blast buried Mr.Truman, as it did Spirit Lake, in 350,000 acre-feet of fire and ash  debris. Mr. Truman’s body was never recovered nor did he represent the only loss of human life in the eruption. 

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Harry Randall Truman (1896-1980) lived by Mount St. Helens for 54 years. Truman died in the eruption after he refused to evacuate.

REID-BLACKBURN-297x300Reid Blackburn, 27, was a photographer at The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Washington. He was killed in the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Reid Blackburn, 27, a photographer at The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Washington, was killed in the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Blackburn got caught in the blast at Coldwater Camp. While his car and body were recovered four days later, his camera only resurfaced after a week.

In this May 17, 1980 photo, 30-year old vulcanologist David Johnston is shown in the evening at his camp near what is now known as Johnston Ridge near Mount St. Helens.

The day before the blast – in this May 17, 1980 photo – 30-year-old volcanologist David Johnston is shown in the evening at his camp near what is now known as Johnston Ridge near Mount St. Helens. A principal scientist on the monitoring team, Johnston perished while manning an observation post 6 miles away on the morning of May 18, 1980. Johnston was the first to report the eruption, transmitting “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” before he was swept away by the lateral blast. Johnston’s remains were never found, but state highway workers discovered remnants of his USGS trailer in 1993. Photo by Harry Glicken on May 17, 1980 at 19:00, 13 1/2 hours before the 1980 eruption. USGS/Public domain.

On Sunday, May 18, 1980 at 8:32 a.m., the bulging north flank of Mount St. Helens slid away in a massive landslide — the largest in recorded history. Seconds later, the uncorked volcano exploded and blasted rocks northward across forest ridges and valleys, destroying everything in its path within minutes. USGS/Public domain.

camper containing two victims of the Mount St. Helens eruption sits amidst the gray landscape about 8 miles from the mountain may 20 1980

This camper contains two victims of the Mount St. Helens eruption in a gray landscape about eight miles from the mountain, May 20, 1980. USGS/Public domain.

View downstream of the North Fork Toutle River valley choked by a debris avalanche deposit from the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. USGS/Public domain.

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Streets of Yakima, Washington, May 18, 1980.

Only a few months before my July 1991 visit the authorities had re-opened Mount St. Helens for the first time in more than a decade. It was named a National Volcanic Monument and deemed safe again for visitors. After Bear Meadow I followed the prolonged twisting road to past Ghost Lake, Meta Lake and Norway Pass until I reached Independence Pass. From its overlook I saw  for the first time the ashen slough that had been Spirit Lake. For years prior to May 1980 several camps inhabited the shore around the lake’s perimeter. There had also been various lodges around the oblong-shaped lake including the one Mr. Truman lived in. On May 18, 1980 Spirit Lake met the full impact of the volcano’s lateral blast. The sheer force of the blast lifted the lake out of its bed and propelled it about 85 stories into the air to splash onto adjacent mountain slopes. Despite the weeks of warnings about a potential eruption of Mount St. Helens, the sole film records of the actual event are in photographs.

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Spirit Lake a few days after the eruption on May 18, 1980. USGS/Public domain.

Mount St. Helens erupts at 8:32 a.m. on May 18, 1980. First in a series of photographs by Willard Pennell.

Mt. St. Helens eruption: second in a series of photographs by Willard Pennell.

Third in a series of photographs by Willard Pennell.

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Fifth in a series of photographs by Willard Pennell.

Sixth in a series of photographs by Willard Pennell.

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Taken from a rest area near Lewiston, Idaho, on May 18, 1980, Mammatus clouds caused by volcanic ash hover over the Palouse of southeastern Washington, north central Idaho and northeast Oregon. Photograph by Betty Ehr.

At 8:32 a.m. on May 18, 1980 a 5.2-magnitude earthquake triggered the bulging north slope of Mount St. Helens to slice and fall away into the biggest debris avalanche in recorded history. This landslide was rapidly succeeded by the powerful lateral blast that sent scorching hot ash and rock hurtling out of the mountain at approximately 300 miles per hour, toppling and incinerating everything in its northward path. Fifteen miles away from the mountain temperatures reached Fahrenheit 572 degrees.

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Entering the “Restricted Zone” of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in July 1991. About eight miles away, the collapsed north face of the mountain looms in the distance. Mount St. Helens was partially destroyed by a series of earthquakes followed by the largest debris avalanche in history and a blast and pyroclastic flow that flattened everything in its path over 230 square miles. Author collection.

While in 2016 plant and animal life continue to recover and augment as it has for decades now,  my boots in 1991 crunched into a gray, dusty moon-like surface. From Spirit Lake to Windy Ridge I was confronted by trees flattened like toothpicks as far as the eye could see, and a cauldron emitting wispy white smoke. The base of the mountain is four miles wide. The journey had taken me from civilization and delightful wilderness into mile upon mile of  badlands. My bodily presence was miniature in an immense, silent, and deserted landscape, the scene only a decade earlier of the most powerful natural event in the Continental United States in over one thousand years. While I heard some people talk about this volcanic eruption as comparable in its destructive power to that of a detonated atom bomb, I know that sort of comparison is ludicrous. For all its destructive force, this is not a disaster as it contains, if one requires patience to believe it,  a natural benignity – or what scientists  call a natural disturbance on a grand scale which allows mankind to study the natural cycle of death and life in a landscape. An atom bomb provides none of that -it only bestows extinction and contamination.

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A gray, dusty moon-like surface with trees flattened like toothpicks as far as the eye could see. At Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, July 1991. Photo John P. Walsh.

Below: “The standing dead” by Rudimentary is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 


Ash and gas, accompanied by lightning, ascended 15 miles into the air at the speed of a mile a minute. In a blast that killed 57 people – many of whom were there to study and record its possible eventuality – it also decimated approximately 7,000 large animals and 12 million salmon. No trees of dense forest were left standing within 6 miles of the summit. Rescue operations continued for days with varied success.

Army National Guard helicopter pilot Harold Kolb rescues two men and their sons

Army National Guard helicopter pilot Harold Kolb rescues two men and their sons from the eruption of May 18, 1980. USGS/Public domain.

horse rescuers gave up their efforts as they fled for their lives as flood waters from the Toutle Rive

Horse rescuers give up their efforts as they fled for their lives before flood waters from the Toutle River. USGS/Public domain.

mudflow deposit covers Washington State Highway 504 near the town of Toutle, northwest of Mount St. Helens, to a depth of 2m (6 ft). USGSR.L. Schuster) #

Mudflow deposits cover State Highway 504 near of Toutle, to a depth of over six feet. Photo by USGS R.L. Schuster. Public Domain.

This aerial view shown May 23, 1980 from a search and rescue helicopter

This aerial view shown May 23, 1980 from a search and rescue helicopter. USGS/Public domain.

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USGS/Public domain.

SGS Photograph taken on May 18, 1980, by Austin Post. Public Domain.

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Encountering a washed-out road to the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center in late summer 1980.

in Moscow, Idaho more than 350 miles away (AP Photo Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Over 350 miles away from the eruption in Moscow, Idaho, May 18, 1980.

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July-1980-Aerial-view-pryoclastic-flow-emerging-from-Mount-St_-Helens-craterUSGS Photo #22 taken at 701 p.m., on July 22, 1980, by Harry Glicken

July 1980 aerial view of pyroclastic flow from Mt. St. Helens. USGS Photo July 22, 1980, by Harry Glicken. USGS/Public domain.

a helicopter stirs up ash while trying to land in the devastated area on August 22nd, 1980. USGSLyn Topinka

A helicopter stirs up ash while trying to land in the devastated area on August 22, 1980. Photo by Lyn Topinka United States Geological Service. USGS/Public domain.

MOUNT ST HELENS

An eruption from Mount St. Helens on March 8, 2005. In 2016 the volcano is showing increased signs of significant seismic activity. AP Photo/USGS Matt Logan. USGS/Public domain.

Fireweed with Spirit Lake n September 4, 1984

Fireweed on the slopes of Spirit Lake only four years after the eruption (September 1984). Public Domain.

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In 2016 in nature it is survival of the fittest – while woody plants are beginning to appear with the promise of a forest, the boll weevil is eating the wood. Photo credit: Michael Hynes.

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Below: Mount St. Helens. The volcano was particularly restless in the mid19th century, when it was notably active off and on for a 26-year span from 1831 to 1857. Canadian artist Paul Kane (1810–1871) painted Mount St Helens Erupting At Night in 1847 (Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto). Though considered once dormant, the volcano has been continually active in degrees over the centuries as this nineteenth century painting attests, and remains so today after the major 1980 blast. Public Domain.

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Mount st Helens May 18, 1980

This photo of an erupting Mount St. Helens has been published and viewed widely on television over the years since the eruption. Photo credit: Richard “Dick” Lasher.

Pyroclastic flow during August 7, 1980, Mount St. Helens eruption. The view is from Johnston Ridge, located 8 km (5 mi) north of Mount St. Helens. Photo: Peter Lipman. Public Domain.

Alan Hovhaness (1911-2001), Symphony Number 50, “Mount St Helens” (1982), Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Gerard Schwarz.

Text©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic  or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

PART 1 – Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Coming to Chicago: The Chicago Freedom Movement in 1965.

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The SCLC’s (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) first nonviolent civil rights campaign in the North started in Chicago on January 5, 1966—50 years ago this month.

The multi-pronged campaign was Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s first major effort outside the South and the first following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. King’s coming to Chicago was greatly influenced by the Watts riots in August 1965 where those deadly six days demonstrated to King and the nation the high cost in human lives and property associated with deep discontentment in the black community over isolating and chronic high unemployment, substandard housing, and inadequate schools.

King’s consideration to come to Chicago in 1966 was further energized by national issues activated by a local focus: in this case, King’s broad support for recent Federal complaints brought by the Chicago Coordinating Council of Community Organizations ( CCCO) alleging segregation in the Chicago public schools. As there was a huge new Federal aid package for those public schools in the nation which desegregated by the start of the 1965-1966 school year, a charge of segregation in a state in the north and in the nation’s second largest city was unexpected, provocative, and dangerous to the natural progression of the status quo.

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Led by former school teacher Albert Raby (on KIng’s left), the CCCO was a coalition of a number of disparate and sometimes contentious groups including the local branches of CORE, the Catholic Interracial Council, and the Urban League, among others. Here, King and Raby meet the Chicago press along with SCLC leader Bayard Rustin (on King’s right).

The status quo in Chicago, at least in terms of its politics, was embodied in one man: Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902-1976). King’s intention to come to Chicago instead of to another big northern city was that he figured to find in Mayor Daley a powerful ally to his civil rights movement. Already Daley vocalized agreement in principle with King’s message of open housing and racial justice, but King’s potential challenge to any aspect of the mayor’s absolute political power never gained Daley’s sympathy or recognition.

Many in Chicago’s local civil rights community, however, welcomed Dr. King’s presence in Chicago in 1966. Activists like Dick Gregory had marched on City Hall — and into Bridgeport to Daley’s home — dozens of times but to no avail in terms of tangible policy changes for blacks in a city where blacks constituted 25% of its population. Perhaps the efforts of Dr.King in Chicago could break the deadlock. 

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights had recently labeled Chicago “the most residentially segregated city in the nation” but Daley chose to see it differently. There was no legal segregation in Chicago and Daley believed it was simply a “city of neighborhoods.” The 64-year-old Daley also felt that if government handouts were not downright un-American then, by 1965, big Federal programs should be administered at the local or city level and not from Washington.

3000 block of S. Bonfield Avenue, Bridgeport

1920’s flats, Bridgeport, Chicago, 2015.

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Chicago slums, 1950.

While Daley’s home rule views appealed to some Chicagoans, other Chicago neighborhoods stayed in flux. There had been a longstanding mistrust, for example, between poor West Side residents—most of whom were black and concentrated by the mid 1960’s into a vast ghetto—and a largely white Chicago police and fire departments. In the summer of 1965 street riots in West Garfield Park effectively produced the integration of 40 of 132 firehouses where calls for integration had been resisted since the early 1950’s.

The City of Chicago’s contrariness to aspects of President Johnson’s Great Society carried into the office of Chicago’s Education chief Benjamin C. Willis who in October 1965 defied federal mandates for the release of requested materials and blocked the use of new national achievement tests in city public schools. This led to Chicago being denied their part of the massive $1.3 billion federal aid to schools program.

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President Lyndon B. Johnson (r.) meets with Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley in the White House, April 21, 1966, in a photograph by Yoichi Okamoto (1915-1985).

The overall Mayor Daley-President Johnson alliance was strong in late 1965 and the federal aid money called into question was restored within the week. Further, the federal official who had cited Daley’s public schools for contempt of Federal segregation mandates was demoted.

It was into this political hothouse that Dr. King decided to build a civil rights campaign for open housing, jobs, and educational opportunity for African-Americans which in October 1965 Daley announced he welcomed with open arms.

Meanwhile Daley was also mobilizing local black and other elected officials in Chicago to establish their own community action programs to co-opt or sideline any of King’s anticipated civil rights initiatives and efforts. This important time when Dr. King came to live and work in Chicago from January to August 1966 and its immediate legacy came to be called the “Chicago Freedom Movement.”

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Tina Allen, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 2004, 1219 West 76th Street, Chicago.

Sculptor and painter Tina Allen (1950-2008) created a number of monumental sculptures of prominent blacks, including labor leader A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979), abolitionist Sojourner Truth (d. 1883), author Alex Haley (1921-1992), South African President Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) and life-size sculptures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the University of Texas at Austin and in the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza in North Las Vegas.

Allen spent her early years in the West Indies and was a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York and the University of South Alabama, and did advanced studies at Pratt Institute and in Venice, Italy. She worked in Los Angeles until her death. Of her sculptures she stated during a 2003 interview, “I’m looking at myself as speaking about the heart and soul of a people, and making sure they’re not forgotten, making sure they don’t feel ignored.”

In January of 1966, Martin Luther King, Jr., arrives into the tenement apartment on the West Side to begin the Chicago Campaign. The nine-month campaign gave birth to beginning to bring before the nation its widespread issues of poverty and racial injustice. As King mounted these steps into his cold, rundown set of rooms, he was equally walking into the complex politics, problems and hurdles associated with a big northern city whose Democratic mayor, Richard J. Daley, was also known as The Boss.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Baltimore, Maryland, October 31, 1964.

SOURCES: Martin Luther King, Jr. with profiles of Mohandas K. Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, Lori Meek Schuldt, World Book, Inc., 2007; American Pharaoh, Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation, Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor, Little, Brown and Company, 2000; At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68, Taylor Branch, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2006; Civil Rights Digital Library – http://crdl.usg.edu/events/watts_riots/?Welcome. On Tina Allen – http://chicagopublicart.blogspot.com/2013/09/dr-martin-luther-king-jr-bust.html. On the CCCO- – http://www.oxfordaasc.com/public/features/archive/0110/photo_essay.jsp?page=3.

If you liked this blog article, PART 1 – Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Coming to Chicago: The Chicago Freedom Movement in 1965 links to Part 2 and Part 3 in the series are provided here:

Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, & Georg Solti: A Critical Look at the Modern Music Directors of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Part 1.

By John P. Walsh

PART I: Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, & Georg Solti.

In 2013 just ahead of Game Four of the Stanley Cup Finals the principal conductor and music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra dressed up in a Chicago Blackhawk’s sweater to conduct his orchestral version of their pep rally song.1 Riccardo Muti (Italian, born 1941) has worn many hats as opera and classical music conductor in a forty-year career but perhaps none with such hometown flair.

In the decades before his 2010 CSO appointment Riccardo Muti appeared to have had a knack for getting into all sorts of fine arts trouble – his resignation as music director from La Scala in summer 2005 is recent although early in his career Muti walked away from productions in Florence, Milan, and Paris because of irreconcilable differences over artistic questions. Despite these encounters, Muti continues to be one of today’s celebrated Mozart and Verdi specialists while unconventionally asserting his prestige by mounting major productions of lesser known composers. From his earliest days as principal conductor of the opera festival Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in 1968 to his appointment as chief conductor of the London Philharmonia in 1972 – both posts held into the early 1980s – as well as a longstanding association with the Salzburg Festival starting in 1971, Muti is only recently being acclaimed in America for what he has long been famous for in Europe – as a first order musical firebrand who makes opera scores spring to vivid life.2

When Riccardo Muti was made music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1980 – a prestigious post with an American orchestra which had had only two previous music directors since 1912 (namely, Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy) – Muti almost immediately stepped into the annals of controversy as a conductor in America. Classical music lovers bred on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s broad, brilliant live and recorded performances under Stokowski and Ormandy found a nemesis in Muti. Verging on his 40s, the new conductor’s ideas for this venerable orchestra with a traditionally lush and enveloping string sound were received by Philadelphia audiences with dismay. It seemed that Muti strictly observed notated musical scores and shaped distinctive interpretations from them which altered a 75-year-old sound brand. Still touting its “distinctive sound”3 today as well as other past glories, the Philadelphia Orchestra under the 44-year reign of Eugene Ormandy (1936–1980) earned 3 Gold records and 2 Grammy Awards.4  In 2014, more than 20 years after Muti’s resignation from Philadelphia, critics continue to weigh in on his enduring influence. One hears the heaving sigh of relief that Muti revolutionized less than they feared.5 Musical idealism remains Muti’s calling card coming into Chicago. Do his efforts at parceling annotated music merit negative criticism? The “very clean sound” which CSO musical director Fritz Reiner (1953-1963) brought to Chicago at a time when the orchestra was looking for stable leadership is praised; the “lean sound” which Muti brought to Philadelphia following 70 years of stable leadership produced misgivings.6 At the October 3, 2014 CSO matinée performance of Polish-themed music (Panufnik, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky’s Third Symphony) it is evident that Chicago’s premier group of players is subjected to a similar set of permuted articulations under Muti’s command. Yet these CSO musicians are mindful of their musical worth and perform at a high level whoever appears on the podium responding to what is asked of them.

Eugene Ormandy and Orchestra Members, 1960s

Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra Eugene Ormandy (Hungary, 1899-1985) with orchestra members in the 1960s.

Riccardo Muti (Italy, born 1941) rehearsing the Philadelphia Orchestra for his 1972 guest conductor debut with the ensemble.

Under music director Fritz Reiner the CSO’s celebrated brass section was born; later, Sir Georg Solti (1969-1991) gave it luster and clarity while Daniel Barenboim (1991-2006) added richness and depth. What is Muti doing?7 Since its founding in 1891  Riccardo Muti is the CSO’s tenth music director. Each of his predecessors had their own style but not all had the same impact or influence on the orchestra which harbors its own strong personality.8 I began my CSO concert subscription when today’s Symphony Center was Orchestra Hall and Sir Georg Solti was its music director. Like most everyone else in Chicago I was in awe of Solti. By 1985 he had with the CSO and chorus won 7 Grammy Awards for a succession of Mahler symphonic recordings plus 15 more Grammys for his Verdi, Puccini, Schoenberg, Berlioz, Mozart, Haydn, Bruckner, and Brahms. Over the next six years when I was regularly in the Hall Solti’s CSO won another 6 Grammy Awards – for his Liszt, Beethoven, Bartók, Wagner, Bach and Richard Strauss. Solti’s accomplishment in this area is wonderfully mind boggling.9 Both music director Fritz Reiner and Jean Martinon (1963-1968) wished to heighten the orchestra’s national and international profile by recordings and tours but it was maestro Solti who fulfilled and then surpassed these earlier objectives. When Solti finally left his post as music director in 1991 after 22 years at its helm he had the legacy of having established Chicago as one of the very best orchestras in the world.

Fritz Reiner (Hungary, 1888-1963) was the sixth music director of the CSO from 1953 to 1963. Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) said that Reiner “made the Chicago Symphony into the most precise and flexible orchestra in the world.”

The CSO’s seventh music director (1963-1968) was talented composer Jean Martinon (French, 1910-1976). Never gaining the complete acceptance of orchestra members, Martinon improved the musicians’ work conditions and introduced the CSO to a new repertoire of French and contemporary classical music.

While music director in the early 1960s at Covent Garden George Solti (Hungary, 1912-1997) was known as “the screaming skull” for his outbursts in rehearsals.

As music director at Covent Garden for ten years starting in 1961 Solti generated a reputation for being “the screaming skull”10 because of his intense and at times bruising style. But musicians not much later in Chicago saw a different and more complex man. Solti did not bait or act harshly toward them as Reiner had done in the mode of Arturo Toscanini (Italy, 1867-1957). Reiner, in the first hour of the first rehearsal as music director, fired one of the musicians. He  worked constantly after that to instill fear into his orchestra. He insisted on being called “Dr. Reiner” and inflicted cruel verbal tests onto his men to test, to his mind, their character.  While believed to be utterly lacking in ready wit or sensitivity as sometimes displayed by the combustible Reiner, Solti was seen by his musicians to turn inwards into a private world.11 Unlike Leonard Bernstein, Solti could appear fashion challenged – he showed up at rehearsal in baggy pants and a simple coat thrown over a rumpled shirt. Nor did Solti drive a flashy sports car à la von Karajan or act podium showman like Stokowski. While Martinon and Solti were “late starters” to music, a 53-year-old Martinon came to the orchestra fully formed while 57-year-old Solti continued an intense drive to advance.12

The 1970s underway, Solti proved to be not the terror in rehearsal Reiner had been nor seeking anyone’s approval like Martinon.  And while Solti was accessible and sometimes sought to be an intermediary to certain first-rank players’ intramural conflicts, he remained markedly tense. Solti did admit to “gentle bullying”13 in Chicago but only to get his way with the music. Respect for the CSO is high among its music directors while at Covent Garden Solti admiited he had been “a narrow-minded little dictator.”14 Under Solti’s leadership the CSO’s technical brilliance produced clear, lustrous, and notably loud sound – known as “Der Solti-Klang.” With Solti the CSO’s 1970 appearance at Carnegie Hall was a rousing success and for its first European tour in 1971 the orchestra basked in stellar reviews. In six weeks they played in Scotland, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Italy, France and England. By 1972 the CSO won its first Grammy Awards under Solti for Mahler Symphonies 7 and 8, whose music was first suggested to Solti to conduct by Theodor Adorno. Sir Georg Solti and Chicago made for a winning team and the city shared in its glory.15

Louis Sudler (1903-1992) president of the Orchestral Association from 1966 to 1971, chairman from 1971 to 1977 and chairman emeritus from 1977 until 1992 announces that Georg Solti will become the CSO’s eighth music director beginning with the 1969-70 season.

Sir Georg Solti conducting the CSO in Orchestra Hall for the three-act opera (third act unfinished) “Moses and Aaron” by Arnold Schoenberg (Austrian, 1874-1951) on November 13, 1971.

Ticker tape parade turns north onto LaSalle Street in Chicago’s downtown financial district following the CSO musicians return from their autumn 1971 European concert tour. It was first such international event for the orchestra in its history.

In performance Solti’s large conducting gestures could appear stiff and stylized – one more aspect of the Toscanini temperament he dismissed. As Solti espoused Toscanini’s belief that music cannot be chopped up and must relax and flow Solti did not follow Toscanini’s lead – as Riccardo Muti, a Toscanini admirer, does not-  to forego the written musical score on the conductor’s podium during a concert. If Muti’s reason is to read and interpret a score’s annotations, Solti’s was a psychological one. Like Toscanini Solti committed the music to memory but kept the annotated score ever-present to serve as an insurance policy for musicians, especially singers, who Solti believed needed reassurance that the conductor had everything under control during a performance. Despite this careful preparation, a recurring criticism of Solti’s work is that it “lack[ed] refinement…finesse and, above all, attention to detail.” 16 For the keen musical mind of Daniel Barenboim who brought neither Solti’s or Muti’s purpose to the podium he nearly always conducted like Toscanini with no score.

Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) demonstrating conducting gestures for a crescendo.

n rehearsal with British mezzo-sporano Josephine Veasey in Covent Garden, 1966

Sir Georg Solti in rehearsal with mezzo-soprano Josephine Veasey (British, born 1930) in Covent Garden, 1966.

Daniel Barenboim in a typical conducting stance at the Veranos de la Villa Festival in Madrid.

Riccardo Muti conducts the CSO in an October 4, 2012 performance at Carnegie Hall.

When Sir Georg Solti died suddenly in September 1997 there was the critical reaction linking him to the passing of an era – an erstwhile time of “old school toughness” when a conductor was a “super-hero” who did not negotiate musical interpretation but demanded it and never shared credit or fame with any musician. But this, of course, is largely myth. The era of “democratic playing” which is criticized as today’s musical model – that is, one of dialogue and partnership between conductor and ensemble – is in fact something that started in the United States and elsewhere around 1960 when Solti was embarking on the next four decades of his best work.17 In what ways is Muti’s directorship affecting “the Chicago sound”? How is this new and highly experienced, talented and forceful conductor – conducting Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” on October 3, 2014 Muti jabbed the air like a boxer – an old Solti gesture – changing this vital orchestra? CSO’s future lies in Muti’s head, heart and hands and while players are incredibly talented (no orchestra plays Strauss and Mahler better) Muti keeps them on a tight leash. How do the musicians respond to his direction? Results from such control and semiotic interpolation of a composer’s intention in the score should be the grounds on which the public will judge Riccardo Muti over time. The CSO strives to play to its Chicago audience, not to one in Asia or Europe, and so the case for Muti’s rise or fall will essentially be local.

NEXT: Daniel Barenboim.

Footnotes:

1 Huff post Chicago, “Chicago Symphony Orchestra Plays ‘Chelsea Dagger’ In A Classy Show Of Support For The Hawks,” 06/20/2013. Retrieved October 2014.

2 irreconcilable differences – http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Riccardo_Muti.aspx. Retrieved October 2014; makes opera scores spring to vivid life – Peter G. Davis, “The Purist,” Opera News, October 2014, vol. 79, no. 4. Retrieved October 2014.

3 https://www.philorch.org/history#/ and http://www.spac.org/events/orchestra. Retrieved October 2014.

4 3 Gold records; 2 Grammy Awards – Townsend, Dorothy (13 March 1985). “Philadelphia Orchestra’s Eugene Ormandy, 85, Dies”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 2014. See also http://www.grammy.com.

5James R. Oestreich, “The Big Five Orchestras No Longer Add Up,” New York Times, June 14, 2013. Retrieved October 2014.

6 William Barry Furlong, Season With Solti: A Year in the Life of the Chicago Symphony, Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974, p. 52.

7 whatever is asked of them – Donald Peck, The Right Place, the Right Time: Tales of Chicago Symphony Days, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 2007, p. 6;  brass born under Reiner – Oestreich; luster and clarity – Furlong, p. 84; richness and depth – Emanuel Ax, http://www.gramophone.co.uk/editorial/the-world%E2%80%99s-greatest-orchestras.

8Furlong, p. 62.

9 See http://www.grammy.com.

10 Furlong, p. 86.

11 insisted on being called “Dr. Reiner” – Peck, p. 2; private world – Furlong, p. 52.

12 flashy sports car – Furlong, p.79; podium showman – Furlong, p.81; “late starters” – Furlong, pp. 58 and 87; fully formed – Furlong, p.60; intensely driven – Furlong, p. 83, 141.

13 Furlong,  p.86.

14 Furlong, p. 88.

15 technical brilliance – Furlong p.81; “Der Solti-Klang” – Furlong, p. 85; “stellar reviews” – Review of ”The Chicago Symphony Orchestra by Robert M. Lightfoot; Thomas Willis,” by M. L. M., Music Educators Journal, Vol. 61, No. 4 (Dec., 1974), pp. 87-88; European itinerary – http://csoarchives.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/solti-26-1971-tour-to-europe/. Retrieved October 2014; suggested to Solti by Theodor Adorno – Sir Georg Solti, Memoirs, Knopf, NY 1997, p. 100.

16 On Solti’s and Toscanini’s relationship – see Furlong, pp. 86; 93-94, 141; for quote “lack[ed] refinement…” – Furlong, p. 85. Solti first worked with Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) at the Salzburg Festival in 1936 and was invited by him to New York in 1939.

17 Old school toughness – Review of “The Right Place, the Right Time! Tales of the Chicago Symphony Days by Donald Peck,” by Lauren Baker Murray, Music Educators Journal, Vol. 95, No. 1 (Sep., 2008), pp. 21-22; “super hero” – “Editorial: Leading from the Front,” The Musical Times, Vol. 138, No. 1857 (Nov., 1997), p. 3; dialogue and partnership… started in…1960 – Furlong, p.110.