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The Special Collections & Archives reading room is closed, and all in-person (physical, face-to-face) services are suspended at this time. We are here to help! Please contact us to discuss how we can best serve you during this time.
Compiled and Edited by Margaret Ann Garmon; Prepared for the Internet by Jennifer Schrager
Editor's note: typeface denotes source of information.
May 5, 1970 (Tuesday)
University employees are told to remain at home until further notice. President Robert White had announced on May 4 the University was closed. Students were sent home on May 4.
At a news conference Robert White calls for a federal commission to investigate problems at Kent, "A full report with complete conclusions...one that will reveal evidence, witnesses and conclusions."
Ohio Gov. James A. Rhodes calls for FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to begin an investigation of the shootings.
The Pentagon states it will not investigate the shootings because National Guard troops were on non-federal status and under the command of the state of Ohio.
Six Kent students meet with Rep. J. William Stanton whose congressional district includes Kent. The Students then meet with presidential assistant John D. Ehrlichman. An invitation from President Richard M. Nixon follows.
May 6, 1970 (Wednesday)
President Richard Nixon meets with six Kent students at the White House. The six students, who claim membership in no group, are: Tom Brubach of Mantua, Dick Cutler of Kent, Don Grant of Ridgewood, N.J., Dean Powell of Cuyahoga Falls, Don Tretnik of Wickliffe and Sam Trago of Northhampton.
The National Guard troops begin a phased withdrawal from Kent. About half the contingent moves out.
Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, Democratic leader of the Senate, proposes an investigation by a high-level commission be initiated.
May 7, 1970 (Thursday)
The Kent State University Faculty Senate and White authorize college deans to seek to complete instruction obligations of the quarter by the best possible means. This action would allow the Ohio Board of Regents to distribute subsidy appropriations for May and June.
The faculty Senate announces support for White.
White calls for a meeting of the entire faculty for the following day.
A court injunction is issued closing the campus is modified to allow the return to campus of all regular rank full-time faculty members between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
In addition, the president, Board of Trustees, full-time staff members and full-time civil service employees are permitted to return to campus.
May 8, 1970 (Friday)
White announces that the University will stay closed through the spring quarter, which ends June 13 (Saturday). (The president had announced on May 4 that the University was closed and students were sent home.)
White also announced that University regional campuses and the University School (for grades kindergarten through 12) will reopen Monday, May 11.
The last National Guard troops leave campus in the morning. The final Ohio State Highway Patrol officers leave later in the day.
Some 100 FBI agents are at work conducting an investigation on campus and in the city of Kent.
May 10, 1970 (Sunday)
University trustees meet with White and reaffirm closing the University and cancellation of all University-related activities for the quarter. Arrangements are made for refunds of room and board payments.
Trustees second White's request for a high-level federal commission study.
White announces the formation of a 28-member faculty-staff-student Commission on Kent State University Violence (CKSUV) to explore completely the incidents of May 1-4 and to help prevent any recurrence of violence. The chairman is Dr. Harold M. Mayer, University Professor of geography.
The Commission immediately issues an "urgent request" for people with information concerning events on campus or in the city in early May to contact the group and make such information known.
"No details should be considered too insignificant to mention," Mayer said.
"What may appear unimportant to the person possessing the information might enlarge the Commission's total understanding of what happened those days, and why."
It is revealed that the commission would honor the confidence of all statements received but that its (the Commission's) files may be subject to subsequent subpoena by official bodies.
Robert H. Finch, then secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, meets with White while in Ohio for a speaking engagement, Finch is the first Cabinet officer to visit the campus since the May 4 tragedy.
Finch adds his voice to those calling for a presidential commission to study campus violence. After the meeting with White, Finch sends the following to Washington D.C.:
"President Richard M. Nixon: Respectfully but urgently I renew plea for high level investigating commission to delve into KSU events to clarify evidence, furnish perspective and do so in a way fully credible publicly. In this I join with Congressman Stanton and Senators Mansfield and Scott."
May 13, 1970 (Wednesday)
The court injunction is modified to allow graduate assistants, temporary instructors and construction workers back on campus.
May 15, 1970 (Friday)
An ad hoc student government commission is formed to explore the possibility of holding the June 13 commencement as planned.
Portage County Prosecutor Ron Kane holds a press conference to display weapons and materials found in a search of campus rooms after May 4. On display are a pistol, shotgun, machetes, five containers of marijuana, cap pistols, slingshots, hunting knives, BB-guns and cold pills.
Several students and professors viewing the display call it "meager" and said a like collection could probably be found by searching any one square block of the city.
Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union denounce the display and call the search unconstitutional.
May 18, 1970 (Monday)
Congressman J. William Stanton of Ohio meets with White and backs his request for a federal investigation.
The first contingent of generally somber students returns to campus to pick up their belongings in residence halls.
May 19, 1970 (Tuesday)
A 45 member Commission to Implement a Commitment to Non-Violence is established under the chairmanship of Charles E. Kegley, (then) assistant professor of health and physical education.
The Commission has a two-fold task:
(1) to consider and recommend various control procedures including, but not restricted to, a marshaling program, group discussions and the development of an administrative policy in response to violence or threats of violence
(2) to attempt to prevent violence by identifying those conditions that might produce it and to suggest means by which to eliminate them.
May 21, 1970 (Thursday)
Attorney General John N. Mitchell announces he is stepping up the Justice Department's investigations of the shootings to determine as soon as possible whether there have been criminal violations of federal laws in the shootings at Kent and deaths of two black students at Jackson State University in Mississippi (May 14, 1970, Thursday).
May 24, 1970 (Sunday)
White House Director of Communications Herbert G. Klein announces the formation of a commission to investigate the Kent tragedy.
May 28, 1970 (Thursday)
Following a modification of a court order to allow graduates to return for spring commencement, the Kent State University Board of Trustees votes to proceed with plans to hold commencement on June 13 as scheduled.
June 6, 1970 (Saturday)
One of the last acts of the Ohio state legislature before the summer recess was to pass a new campus riot bill, which will become law in September (1970).
The bill is designed to require swift action against students and faculty charged during disturbances at state-assisted colleges and universities.
The bill provides strict penalties for outsiders convicted of a variety of changes on campuses. The same penalties apply to students and faculty who could also be suspended from their school pending a court decision on their case.
The would require a hearing within five days of their arrest with an attorney appointed by the Ohio Board of Regents serving as a referee. Court conviction would mean a mandatory one-year dismissal. Reinstatement would be automatic if found innocent by the court and in this case the record of suspension would be erased.
June 9, 1970 (Tuesday)
An Ohio unit of the American Civil Liberties Union issues a report protesting the direction of the FBI inquiry. ACLU complaints center on complaints from students and faculty that FBI agents were investigating political beliefs and teachings of some professors.
Arthur Krause, father of Allison Krause, one of the four students killed, files a $6 million suit in federal court against Gov. James A. Rhodes and two Ohio National Guard commanders. His suit states the defendants "intentionally and maliciously disregarded the lives and safety of students, spectators and passersby, including Allison Krause."
Krause also files a $2 million suit in Portage County Court of Common Pleas against the state of Ohio.
Forty days after their forced exodus from campus some 1,250 seniors and graduate students return en masse to receive degrees.
Early in the commencement ceremony a telephone on the speaker's platform rang quietly. Unnoticed by many in the audience, the phone was passed to President White. In the middle of his address the president digressed momentarily to say the call had been from Congressman J. William Stanton.
Word had come from the White House that President Nixon had named a special commission to investigate campus unrest.
President Nixon releases the names of those serving on a nine-member commission to examine campus violence and recommend ways of peacefully resolving student grievances and avoid future incidents such as the one at Kent. The commission's mandate has been broadened to include the Jackson State deaths and campus violence overall.
The panel is headed by former Pennsylvania Gov. William W. Scranton. Also on the panel are:
June 15, 1970 (Monday)
A court injunction that closed the campus May 4 is lifted in order for summer classes to begin.
As a result of the order lifted by Judge Albert Caris, jurisdiction of the campus is returned to the Board of Trustees.
June 19, 1970 (Friday)
Summer quarter begins at Kent.
June 22, 1970 (Monday)
Summer classes begin.
The first summer session begins with an enrollment of 7,470, slightly less than the summer enrollment of 7,679 a year ago.
A Justice Department report on the Kent shootings in revealed in an article published in the "Akron Beacon Journal." Details in a 10-page Justice Department memo summarize the reports of 100 FBI agents. The article quotes Jerris Leonard, chief of the civil rights division for the Justice Department, who said that the shootings "were not necessary and not in order" and that about 200 demonstrators heckling the guardsmen could have been repulsed by more tear gas and arrests, there was no hail of rocks thrown before the shooing, that no guardsmen were hit by rocks or other projectiles and no guardsmen were in danger of losing their lives.
The statements in the memo and report differ greatly from accounts provided previously by Ohio officials and Guard officers.
The department also states that FBI investigators determined that the shooting lasted 11 seconds and altogether 13 people were hit - four were hit in the front and nine were hit in the side or back.
A Justice Department statement confirms the memo included options for prosecution. The statement reads: "If Mr.(Ronald)Kane chooses to release such information, he must bear responsibility for it."
Kane responds that the FBI report would be used in a grand jury investigation. "Nothing has been released about this from this office and nothing can until it is given to the grand jury," Kane states.
July 24, 1970 (Friday)
Maj. Gen. Sylvester T. Del Corso, adjutant general of the Ohio National Guard, states the FBI assertions "are not factual...They fail to include many facts which we provided."
"The conclusions as stated in the paper by the reporter are just unbelievable...that there were no troops injured. that no stones were thrown and that there was a question whether there even was a riot," Del Corso said.
August 1, 1970 (Saturday)
Del Corso, Ohio Guard commander, urges a grand jury be convened. Del Corso's request comes following reports of a Justice Department memo indicating that National Guardsmen could be held liable to criminal charges in the shootings.
August 3, 1970 (Monday)
Rhodes orders state Attorney General Paul W. Brown to convene a special Portage County grand jury to investigate the shootings. Portage County grand jury to investigate the shootings. Portage County Prosecutor Ron Kane said previously that the county did not have the money needed to conduct an investigation. Rhodes' action enables investigation costs to be handled by the state.
August 7, 1970 (Friday)
J. Edgar Hoover sends a letter to John S. Knight, president and editor of the "Akron Beacon Journal." Hoover charges the paper with distorting the facts in the July 23, 1970, article about the FBI investigation. In his letter, Hoover denies that the FBI concluded that the shootings were unnecessary as reported in the paper. Hoover adds that the results of the FBI inquiry were turned over to the Justice Department "without recommendation or conclusion."
August 19-21, 1970 (Wednesday - Friday)
The President's Commission on Campus Unrest convenes in Kent. The public hearings are the final series by the panel before submitting its report.
Among those testifying are Dr. Robert I. White, president of Kent State University; Maj. Gen. Sylvester T. Del Corso, Ohio National Guard adjutant general; Brig. Gen. Robert H. Canterbury, who commanded the troops at Kent; James C. Woodring Jr., student witness; and George Warren, staff investigator for the Commission.
Warren testifies that the FBI has "concluded that no other person than a Guardsman fired a weapon." Ballistics reports indicated that 29 guardsmen fired at least 54 shots during the rifle volley that resulted in the deaths of four and wounding of nine others.
White testifies Aug. 19. His testimony differs from Canterbury's testimony (to be given the next day) as to whether the University requested the troops on campus and whether White specifically asked Guard officials to prevent a student rally May 4.
White said that "by and large the National Guard was in charge." Canterbury, however, contends that the Guard was acting in response to University requests.
Kent Mayor Leroy Satrom testifies Aug. 20 and Kent Police Chief Roy Thompson testifies on Aug. 21. They both contend that disturbances were planned and initiated by outside militants. White's testimony of Aug. 19 indicates that Kent had been "targeted" for disruptions by radicals "interested in either doing some burning or shutting us down."
September 15, 1970 (Tuesday)
A special state grand jury of 15 members is sworn in in Ravenna, which is the county seat of Portage County where Kent and Kent State are located.
September 26, 1970 (Saturday)
The President's Commission on Campus Unrest makes public its general report on the Kent shootings. The report describes the National Guard shootings as "unwarranted." The panel adds, however, that "violent and criminal" actions by students contributed to the tragedy.
The panel emphasizes that the tragedy was not unique, stating, "Only the magnitude of the student disorder and the extent of student deaths and injuries set it apart from the occurrences on numerous other American campuses during the past few years."
The panel says "indiscriminate firing" by guardsmen was "unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable." The Commission adds, "Those who wreaked havoc on the town of Kent, those who burned the ROTC building, those who attacked and stoned National Guardsmen and all those who urged them on share the responsibility for the deaths and injuries of May 4."
The report goes on to state, "no one would have died" if the Guard had followed recommendations by the National Advisory Commission Civil Disorder and U.S. Army guidelines, both of which advise against "general issuance of loaded weapons to law enforcement officers engaged in controlling disorders" that fall short of "armed resistance."
The report's most important conclusion is, "The Kent State tragedy must surely mark the last time that loaded rifles are issued as a matter of course to guardsmen confronting student demonstrators."
A great deal of the report provides a detailed chronology of the four days of events leading to the shootings. The report paints a picture of weary and frightened guardsmen and students unsure of the permissible limits of dissent and hostile actions over the presence of troops on campus.
October 16, 1970 (Friday)
Convening in Ravenna, a special state grand jury indicts 25 people on charges stemming from the disturbances at Kent. No guardsmen are indicted.
The jury finds that the guardsmen were not "subject to criminal prosecution" because they "fired their weapons in the honest and sincere belief...that they would suffer serious bodily injury had they not done so." The jury adds that weapons used by the guardsmen were "not appropriate in quelling campus disorders," but the jury's exoneration of guard action contrasts with the President's Commission on Campus Unrest, which stated Oct. 4, 1970 that the shootings were "unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable."
In the 18-page report, the jury sets the "major responsibility" for the disturbances as resting "clearly with those persons who are charged with the administration of the University." According to the panel, the administration "over a period of several years" had "fostered an attitude of laxity, overindulgence, and permissiveness with its students and faculty to the extent that it can no longer regulate the activities of either." What the jury describes as the University's "overemphasis...on the right to dissent" is also severely criticized.
Attorney General John Mitchell states that the Justice Department is continuing to investigate the shootings and will review the state grand jury findings.
October 19-26, 1970 (Monday-Monday)
Names of defendants charged by a special state grand jury are released as arrests begin. Among those charged are Craig Morgan, 21, Kent student body president, with second-degree riot, and Dr. Thomas S. Lough, sociology professor, with inciting to riot. Both are released on bail.
By Oct. 26, one non-student, and 15 current or former students are charged with various crimes including riot, assault, and arson. Many are as a result of the burning of the ROTC building on May 2, 1970.
October 20, 1970 (Tuesday)
The Kent State University Faculty Senate, the Student Senate, and the Graduate Student Council issue a joint statement demanding a federal grand jury investigation.
William Kuntsler, attorney for the "Chicago 7" arrives in Kent to help coordinate the defense of the 25 people charged.
January 28, 1971 (Thursday)
U.S. District Court Judge William K. Thomas, ruling in Cleveland, upholds the 25 grand jury indictments. Thomas also rules that the report issued by the jury is illegal and orders it be destroyed in 10 days.
In his ruling, Thomas states that the report, if allowed to stand, would "irreparably injure" the defendants' rights to a fair trial. He adds that the jury "violated the oath of secrecy...took over the duties of a petit (regular) jury and acted as a trying body and determined guilt" and issued a report that is illegal in that it "advises, condemns or commends."
Thomas also rules on two suits brought by faculty members and students (including 10 under indictment). His ruling lets stand the indictments because "bad faith in the sense of deliberate willful pervision of law to gain an improper purpose is not directly shown and it will not be inferred."
Thomas adds that decisions on whether the 25 could have fair trials could be made when jury selection begins in each trial. According to Thomas then former Gov. James A. Rhodes was in error in calling for a grand jury report. "Gov. Rhodes' call appears to direct the special grand jury to identify causes," Thomas said.
The jury report "renders moral and social judgments on policies, attitudes and conduct of the University administration and some faculty and students," according to Thomas.
Further, the jury accused the administration of "permissiveness" with its faculty and students and also criticized faculty members of "overemphasis in dissent." These were violations of rights of free expression of people not under indictment, according to Thomas.
Thomas criticizes the jury for claiming witnesses "have fairly represented every aspect, attitude and point of view concerning the events." Instead, the findings should have been based on "probable cause." Thomas's criticism specifically points to the finding that the events constituted a riot. He argues that this finding should be left to a regular grand jury and that "establishing existence of a riot is a basic and essential element of at least 27 of 43 charged offences" in the indictments.
Thomas also states that the jury's finding that National Guardsmen, who killed four students at Kent, acted in self-defense "is another ways of saying that the 'rioters' are guilty."
February 18, 1971 (Monday)
President White submits his resignation, effective Sept. 15, 1971.
May 5, 1971 (Wednesday)
Demonstrators end an overnight sit-in in front of the Reserve Officers Training Corps headquarters in protest of ROTC on campus (then located in Rockwell Hall).
May 14, 1971 (Friday)
A probe of the Jackson State University and Kent State University killings is called when a group of national religious leaders urge that federal grand jury investigations begin. The leaders claim that Mississippi and Ohio state grand juries had exonerated law enforcement officers without examining all the evidence.
The statement reads, "In a nation that genuinely respects law and order, policemen are not above the law nor students below it...We call upon the U.S. Department of Justice to rectify this situation by prosecuting those responsible."
The statement is distributed at a memorial service for the slain students held at a Washington D.C. church. Among those attending are Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Krause, parents of Allison, one of the four killed at Kent, and Dale Gibbs, widow of Phillip Gibbs, one of two killed at Jackson State on May 14, 1970.
The statement was signed by:
A group of 20 U.S. congressmen request a Justice Department investigation.
Peter Davies' report is published. The private report is funded by the Department of Law, Justice and Community Relations of the United Methodist Church's Board of Christian Social Concerns. Davies writes that a small group of guardsmen had agreed to "punish" the students and opened fire on signal.
The 227-page analysis is based on testimony already on public record. Davies cites a "monumental accumulation of testimony and photographs which support the theory that the shooting was planned and carried out with the intent to kill, maim or injure students."
The report had been submitted to the Justice Department for a month previous. When the department makes no response to the report's "appeal" for an "immediate and thorough" federal investigation, the report is released.
Davies states that "a few guardsmen, perhaps no more than eight to ten," from Troop G of the 107th Armored Calvary had decided to shoot at students "at an opportune moment." Davies said most of the guardsmen involved in the shooting "did indeed fire in reaction to those who triggered the shooting by their willful firing."
July 23, 1971 (Friday)
A $4 million lawsuit against the state of Ohio filed by Louis Schroeder in connection with the death of his son William is dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge James C. Connell in Cleveland.
As in three previous suits filed by the parents of the dead students, his ruling is the same: The state has sovereign immunity and cannot be sued unless it consents.
(See also June 10, 1970)
August 2, 1971 (Monday)
Glenn Olds is named president of Kent State University by the Board of Trustees.
August 6, 1971 (Friday)
U.S. Congress begins recess.
August 13, 1971 (Friday)
Attorney General John N. Mitchell announces that no federal grand jury will be empaneled to investigate the shootings at Kent. "There is no credible evidence of a conspiracy between National Guardsmen to shoot students on campus." Mitchell said.
He also said Justice Department investigations supported the conclusion of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest that the guardsmen's rifle fire was "unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable." But no conspiracy had been discovered and a grand jury could not be expected to produce new evidence beyond that already provided by the commission and FBI, Mitchell said.
"There is no likelihood of successful prosecutions of individual guardsmen," he said.
Rep. William Moorhead of Pennsylvania, who was one of the 20 congressmen requesting a probe on May 24, releases a statement: "We predicted this response by the attorney general and we're not surprised by it."
Moorehead had communicated to other signers of the request that the Justice Department announcement regarding the decision not to pursue the case would be made "sometime during Congressional recess...to minimize Congressional response." Congress recessed Aug. 6.
August 14, 1971 (Saturday)
James F. Ahern, a member of the president's commission, responds to Mitchell's announcement that it is "incredible" that the attorney general failed to order a grand jury investigation and that the decision was "inconceivable...in the face of the FBI report indicating there was probable cause to file criminal charges."
September 13, 1971 (Monday)
Martin C. Pryor, an Ohio National Guard sergeant, files a $1.5 million libel suit against Peter Davies in connection with statements in the Davies report released July 22, 1971.
President White's resignation is effective. Glenn Olds takes over officially as president.
September 29, 1971 (Wednesday)
A U.S. district court judge rules that the Ohio National Guard must discharge Raymond D. Silvey, who had declared himself a conscientious objector after being present at Kent during the shootings.
September 30, 1971 (Thursday)
The Ohio 8th District Court of Appeals orders a lower court to consider on its merits the suit against Ohio's claim to immunity from civil suits resulting from actions of state agents.
October 20, 1971 (Tuesday)
A petition signed by 10,380 Kent students and faculty members is presented to President Richard Nixon requesting a federal probe of the killings. The petition is referred to Attorney General John Mitchell.
October 22, 1971 (Thursday)
A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a 1970 order by Portage County Common Please Court Judge Edwin W. Jones that prohibits discussion of the May 4 incident and case by 300 witnesses and others connected with the grand jury and indictments.
November 15, 1971 (Monday)
The Portage County Grand Jury report is officially burned as ordered by the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which upheld a lower court ruling of Oct. 26 also ordering the report destroyed as prejudicial.
The court upholds the grand jury's 25 indictments ruling that the defense lawyers failed to establish the prosecutor's bad faith or that the defendants would "suffer great and immediate injury from prosecution."
November 19, 1971 (Friday)
The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to delay trials in Ravenna set to begin Nov. 22. The court votes 6-1 and gives no reason for its action. Justice William O. Douglas casts the dissenting vote and writes that Ohio's anti-riot laws "on their face seem overly broad" and infringe on First Amendment rights of those required to defend themselves against the charges.
November 22, 1971 (Monday)
Jury selection begins in Portage County Common Pleas Court for the trial of Jerry Rupe, the first of 23 students, former students and faculty members on trial for disorders preceding the shootings.
Rupe is charged with rioting, arson, slashing a fire hose and throwing rocks at firefighters on May 2, 1970, when the ROTC building was set afire. He was jailed in September 1971 after a $25,000 bond was withdrawn.
As the trial starts, Common Pleas Court Judge Edwin W. Jones imposes elaborate restrictions on press coverage and demonstrations. Jones prohibits attorneys, witnesses, jurors and county employees from giving interviews to the press. Under Jones' order picketing, parading, and passing leaflets are prohibited. Cameras and electronic equipment are off limits in the courthouse.
An affidavit is filed on behalf of 10 defendants charging Jones with "bias and prejudice" as evidenced by his convening the original grand jury and disseminating its controversial report.
November 30, 1971 (Monday)
Jerry Rupe is convicted in Portage County Common Pleas Court of the misdemeanor of interfering with a fireman. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on three felony charges of rioting, arson, and throwing rocks at firemen.
The state dismisses the charges against the second defendant, Peter Bliek.
December 1, 1971 (Wednesday)
Larry Shub pleads guilty to first-degree riot charges in Portage County Common Pleas Court. Additional charges are dropped.
December 6, 1971 (Monday)
Thomas F. Fogelsong pleads guilty to first-degree riot charges in Portage County Common Pleas Court.
December 7, 1971 (Tuesday)
Common Pleas Court Judge Edwin Jones instructs the jury to find the fifth defendant, Helen Nicholas, not guilty of interfering with a fireman. Special State Prosecutor John Hayward moves to drop the remaining cases.
The State of Ohio drops all charges against 20 remaining defendants in the Portage County Court of Common Pleas on grounds of lack of evidence after two of the first five defendants were cleared, two pleaded guilty and charges against another were dismissed.
The dismissals were "not intended to vindicate nor criticize the special grand jury, the students" or any other involved party, according to Ohio Attorney General William Brown. He concluded some time before that many of the cases could not be prosecuted and had arranged the trials in order of the strongest evidence, Brown said.
January 21, 1972 (Friday)
Jerry Rupe, found guilty of interfering with a fireman (misdemeanor) on May 2, 1970, is sentenced to six months in jail by Portage County Common Pleas Court Judge Edwin W. Jones. His sentence run concurrently with an unrelated 10-20-year drug sentence imposed in 1971.
May 4, 1972 (Thursday)
The American Civil Liberties Union files damage suits totaling $12.1 million in Cleveland against Ohio and the Ohio National Guard in connection with the 1970 shootings at Kent.
August 3, 1973 (Friday)
The Justice Department announces it will reopen the May 4, 1970 case. The announcement is made almost two years after the department rejected further federal inquiries into the case.
In his written statement, Attorney General Elliot Richardson does not mention new evidence but states that the decision to start a new inquiry rests on "the need to exhaust every potential for acquiring facts relating to this tragedy."
Assistant Attorney General J. Stanley Pottinger, head of the Civil Rights Division, will conduct the investigation.
Pottinger said he could "not speculate on any new evidence we may or may not have" but suggested that the decision have been prompted by other events, including civil suits filed by parents of victims, Congressional inquiries, student petitions, and pressure for reform of National Guard procedures.
Sen. Birch Bayh of Indiana reveals he had informed Richardson of a letter sent to Bayh by a National Guard company commander suggesting that a police informer, Terrence B. Norman, might have precipitated the National Guard fire by firing his own revolver at students.
According to Bayh, the commander said Norman was posing as a newsman and had run up to guardsmen after the shootings, handed over a revolver and said he had shot a student.
Bayh also said that FBI director Clarence M. Kelley told him on July 9 that Norman had once been an FBI informer in an unrelated matter but had not been questioned on the Kent case. A Justice Department spokesman said Aug. 3 that the FBI had interviewed Norman twice about the May 4 incident.
December 4, 1973 (Tuesday)
Attorneys for parents of three slain students ask the Supreme Court to allow the parents to sue former Ohio Gov. James Rhodes and National Guardsmen as individuals after suits against the state and Guard had been dismissed under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
December 12, 1973 (Wednesday)
Sen. William Saxbe of Ohio tells the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would excuse himself from the Justice Department's reopened inquire into the 1970 shootings.
December 17, 1973 (Friday)
The Senate votes 75-10 to confirm Sen. William Saxbe of Ohio as attorney general.
December 18, 1973 (Tuesday)
A federal grand jury meeting in Cleveland begins hearing evidence in the Justice Department's reopened investigation.
March 29, 1974 (Friday)
A federal grand jury indicts eight former guardsmen. They are technically charged with violating the civil rights of the students. The indictment states all eight guardsmen fired in the direction of demonstrators.
Five are accused of firing the shots - from M-1 rifles - that resulted in the deaths.
The five are: James D. McGee, William E. Perkins, James E. Pierce, Lawrence A. Shafer and Ralph W. Zoller. They face possible terms of life imprisonment.
The other three, Matthew J. McManus, Barry W. Morris, and Leon H. Smith, are charged with firing of pistols and shotguns that resulted in the injuries. They face possible maximum penalties of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
McManus is listed as a present guard member in the indictment. He told reporters he had resigned before the grand jury appearance.
Assistant Attorney General J. Stanley Pottinger, head of the Civil Rights Division conducting the investigation, states that the grand jury has not been discharged and could be reconvened to hear other evidence.
April 4, 1974 (Thursday)
All eight former guardsmen, indicted by a federal grand jury of charges of violating civil rights of students, plead not guilty.
An attorney for four of the defendants argues for dismissal of the charges and files motions charging the government with "gross misconduct" amounting to fraud and obstruction of justice in delaying the calling of the grand jury.
The motion argues that the defendants had "every right" to believe the case was closed when John Mitchell, then attorney general, stopped the federal investigation in 1971.
An additional motion calls for Mitchell and former Attorney General Richard Kleindienst to be made available for depositions.
April 17, 1974 (Wednesday)
The Supreme Court rules that parents of three students allegedly killed by National Guardsmen at Kent can sue Ohio officials and officers of the guard. The 8-0 decision of Scheuer vs. Rhodes reverses a lower court decision holding state officials immune from such suits. The decision does not deal with the merits of the suit. justice William O. Douglas does not join the ruling.
Chief Justice Warren E. Burger writes for the court, stating the established constitutional prohibition against a suing a state provides "no shield for a state official confronted by the claim that he had deprived another of a federal right under the color of the law."
In this case, parents were not suing the state "but seeking to impose individual and personal liability on the names defendants" for violations of federal civil rights laws that resulted in the students' deaths, according to Burger
He added that state officials enjoyed only qualified immunity "dependent upon the score of discretion and responsibilities of the office and all circumstances as they reasonably appeared at the time."
Federal civil rights guarantees "would be drained of meaning were we to hold that the acts of a governor or other high executive officer has the quality of supreme and unchangeable edict, overriding all conflicting rights...and were unreviewable by the federal courts, " Burger concluded.
October 21, 1974 (Thursday)
The federal trial of eight former National Guardsmen accused of violating civil rights of the four slain students opens in Cleveland before U.S. District Court Judge Frank J. Battisti.
The Justice Department will present 33 witnesses and 130 exhibits - mostly photographs of the confrontation between guardsmen and students. The 12-member jury will visit the Kent campus where it will hear simulated gunshots at the scene.
November 8, 1974 (Friday)
U.S. District Court Judge Frank J. Battisti acquits eight former guardsmen in Cleveland.
Battisti rules that U.S. prosecutors failed to prove charges that guardsmen willfully intended to deprive the four students killed and nine wounded of their civil rights.
"At best, the evidence...would support a finding that the amount of force against defendants was excessive and unjustified," Battisti said.
Battisti's opinion also cautions, "It is vital that state and National Guard officials not regard this decision as authorizing or approving the use of force against demonstrators, whatever the occasion or the issue involved."
Assistant Attorney General J. Stanley Pottinger states that the court ruling ended the federal government's prosecution in the case. "The decision to reopen the case was right. The grand jury's decision to indict was right. The trial of the case was thorough. The department has done everything in its power to air the causes of this tragedy and enforce the law," he said.
Civil trials begin in Cleveland before a federal jury in which the wounded students and parents of the dead students had filed civil suits seeking a total of $46 million in damages from Rhodes, former Kent president Robert I. White and 27 former and current guardsmen.
All individual suits are consolidated into one case, Krause vs. Rhodes. Chief attorney for the plaintiffs is Joseph Kelner of New York.
U.S. District Court Judge Don J. Young presides.
During the course of the 15-week trial, the six-man, six-woman civil jury will hear testimony from more than 100 witnesses. At the trial's outset, both sides agree a three-fourths majority (nine votes) is sufficient for a verdict.
Attorneys for the victims argue that the shootings were willful, indiscriminate and in violations of the students' rights to assemble on the campus and protest the invasion of Cambodia.
Defense lawyers in turn counter that the guardsmen had been called out by civil authorities to protect life and property. The guardsmen's actions were justified because students charged the ranks, putting guardsmen in fear of their lives, according to the defense.
The defense calls witnesses who claimed to have heard non-military gunfire before the guardsmen fired, as well as a former student who testified that she saw a civilian fire a gun shortly before the guardsmen began shooting.
However, Brig. Gen. Robert H. Canterbury, commander of the guardsmen and a defendant in the suits, admits in testimony that officials were unable to substantiate reports of firing by snipers, and three former students disputed their fellow student's claim that she saw a civilian fire a gun.
August 22, 1975 (Friday)
U.S. District Court Judge Don J. Young instructs jurors on the statues and constitutional issues of the case. A preponderance of the evidence had to show that the defendants had violated statutory and constitutional rights of the plaintiffs, including the rights to assemble peacefully; the right not to be deprived of life and liberty without due process of the law; the right not to suffer cruel and inhuman punishment; and the right to protection against excessive government force, according to Youngs' instructions.
Additionally, Young instructs the jury to decide if state laws on assault and battery and negligence had been violated.
August 27, 1975 (Wednesday)
A federal court jury meeting in Cleveland exonerates Ohio Gov. James Rhodes and 28 other defendants from any financial or personal responsibility in connection with the shootings. After deliberating for 33 hours, the vote to acquit is 9-3
The jury's decision found that the plaintiffs had not been denied their civil rights, nor had they been victims of the "willful or wanton misconduct or of the negligence of some or all of the defendants."
November 12, 1976 (Friday)
Kent State University President Glenn Olds announces his resignation, which will be effective July 15, 1977.
An appeal of the federal court jury on the civil cases is underway. Attorney Sanford Rosen of San Francisco is chosen to head the new legal team.
Oral arguments for the appeal are heard in Cincinnati at the same time the "Move the Gym" controversy is in progress. The controversy centers on whether an annex to Memorial Gym will infringe on or encroach a portion of the site where the confrontation between the guard, demonstrators and wounded students took place.
June 9, 1977 (Thursday)
Dr. Brage Golding is elected president of Kent State University by the Board of Trustees.
July 15, 1977 (Friday)
Dr. Michael Schwartz, then vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, begins his term as interim president, Glenn Olds' resignation is effective.
August 10, 1977 (Wednesday)
Dr. Brage Golding, newly elected president of Kent State University, arrives on the Kent campus.
September 12, 1977 (Monday)
In a reversal of the 1975 lower court ruling which had cleared those defendants charged in a damage suit resulting from the shootings, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Court orders a retrial. The ruling states that Rhodes, several state officials and National Guardsmen should stand trial again because at least one jury member had been "threatened and assaulted by a person interested in its outcome." A new trial for the federal civil cases is ordered, based on the judgement of the first judge, Donald Young, had improperly made a threat against one of the jurors.
The damage-suit for $46 million had been filed by those wounded and relatives of those killed during the shootings. They claim construction of the gymnasium annex would destroy physical evidence that might be relevant to the new trial.
A new trial is scheduled to begin. Young has withdrawn from the case and is replaced by William Thomas, whom plaintiffs see as more objective in his conduct of the trial.
January 4, 1979 (Thursday)
An out-of-court settlement is reached in the civil cases and approved by the State Controlling Board with a vote of 6-to-1. The board is required to approve all state expenditures.
Shortly after the board announces its decision, the judge in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland dismisses a jury that had been called to hear testimony in a second trial against the state.
The plaintiffs receive $675,000 for injuries received in 1970 and this compensation is accompanied by a statement from the defendants, which reads in part, "In retrospect the tragedy of May 4, 1970, should not have occurred...We deeply regret those events and are profoundly saddened by the deaths of four students and the wounding of nine others which resulted."
the settlement, according to the plaintiffs, "accomplished to the greatest extent possible under present law" their main objectives, not the least of which was financial support for Dean Kahler, who has been paralyzed.
Also sought by plaintiffs was a statement signed by Rhodes and 27 National Guardsmen who were defendants in the case.
The statement, read in court, said: "In retrospect, the tragedy of May 4, 1970 should not have occurred."
It also noted that students protesting the Cambodian invasion by U.S. troops "may have believed they were right" in continuing their protests in spite of a university ban on rallies and an order for the students to disperse. The statement went on to note that those orders had been upheld as "lawful" by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The statement continues:
"Some of the guardsmen on Blanket Hill (the campus area where the violence occurred), fearful and anxious from prior events, may have believed in their own minds that their lives were danger. Hindsight suggests another method would have resolved the confrontation. Better ways must be found to deal with such confrontations.
"We devoutly wish that a means had been found to avoid the May 4 events culminating in the Guard shootings and the irreversible deaths and injuries. We deeply regret those events, and are profoundly saddened by the deaths of four students and wounding of nine others which resulted. We hope that the agreement to end this litigation will help assuage the tragic moments regarding that sad day."
Settlement of monies were distributed as follows: