Missouri State Archives Presentation Videos


[ Transcript for: Reflections on the Kansas City Riot of 1968 ]

Reflections on the Kansas City Riot of 1968 Video Transcript



Race Issues in 1966

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Thank you, very much. It's good to be with you; 1966 seems along time ago, doesn't it? At least to some of us, I'm now one of the old retired guys. But, when I was ordained in 1966, some of you may remember what the times were like in those days, the kind of social upheaval that was going on in our country. I should have had a clue, I think, after my very first sermon at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral when a rather large man walked up to me. He wore big horn-rimmed glasses and reminded me somewhat of the cartoon character Senator Foghorn Leghorn. If you remember he was a very large chicken, but he had a voice much like that man. And, he put both hands on my shoulders and said, "Boy, let me give you some advice about your preaching; when you preach, first of all, wave your hands around a lot, I like that." And, he said secondly, "when you preach don't mention colored people, they're really happy people and we've heard enough about them around here." That should have been my first clue that I was walking into a world that was being turned upside down.

Some of you may remember that the race issue was serious business in 1966. The Civil Rights Movement had been largely confined to the south, but it now moved north. There had been urban riots in Los Angeles in the Watts Neighborhood in 1965. And, between 1965 and 1968 there were 300 riots in American cities; amazing. With seventy-five riots, the summer of 1967 proved to be the worst.

I find it almost unbelievable that all that ferment was happening at the time, as I look back on it now, but there it was.

And, I had just come out of seminary. I had been formed very much by the kinds of crises that were happening in our country, primarily the race issue. And, finding a way to take my theological education and apply it to the real world, and here I was at 24 years old, ready to apply it, and that guy put his hands on my shoulder and decided that he was going to apply some of his own influence. But, everything for me came into focus during holy week in 1968.

King Assassination and City Reaction

On April 4th, 1968, the Thursday before Palm Sunday, Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee. He was there, as you might remember, supporting a strike by garbage workers in that city, and as he was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel; he was shot dead.

I have since many years later been to the Lorraine Motel and seen that place. It's now been turned into an incredible Civil Rights Museum. And, you may remember what happened. The country erupted in grief and violence. There was obvious tension in Kansas City, as people worried that the violence happening in other cities might happen there. One thing that I would say, as you know, Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas are just stuck right up against one another with a river kind of running in between; and a couple of things happened on Friday, after King's assassination. One of the things that I found interesting was the way in which Kansas City, Kansas dealt with the crisis. The morning of school on Friday after King's death a number of students marched out of school saying they wanted to march downtown. And, the superintendent of schools showed up at the school and said, "That's great, and I'll march with you." And, he called the Chief of Police in Kansas City, Kansas and said, "I want the senior black officer to come and join us and march with us downtown." The students, the superintendent, and the black officer marched downtown, a couple of speeches were given, the superintendent said, "There will now be a memorial service back at the school." The group turned around and walked back to the school and had a memorial service and essentially the crisis was over.

In Kansas City, Missouri, Clarence Kelley, who is the Head of the Police by Friday evening had called full alert and things were ready to roll.

Palm Sunday March

Palm Sunday it was decided by the city officials and the church officials would be a day in which we would honor Dr. King. We would have a march in the city, after church. And, after church on April 7th, which was a beautiful sunny day. Driving up here today from the lake, I thought, this is how it looked that day, except that it was a lot warmer. But, it was clear and beautiful just like today. The clergy and a number of cathedral parishioners, Grace and Holy Trinity parishioners joined with as many as fifteen thousand other Kansas Citians in a peaceful march to grieve the death of Dr. King and to pray for reconciliation.

On more than one occasion, people in the streets and speakers from the platform congratulated themselves on the nonviolent nature of our march. It was as if spring itself was blessing us and our peaceful march by decorating our way with blooming trees and budding flowers, and that gorgeous blue sky. Other cities were experiencing riots in the streets, but we proudly said, "Kansas City is different." Things would change.

King’s Funeral and School Responses

On Monday, newscasters announced that Dr. King's funeral would be televised the next day. So, the dean of our cathedral and the leadership of the Metropolitan Interchurch Agency, which is a large group of Protestants and Catholics in Kansas City, organized the service at the cathedral for Tuesday morning. Because of the tension in the metropolitan area the Kansas City, Kansas School District cancelled classes for Tuesday, so that students could stay home and watch the funeral. The situation in Kansas City, Missouri was very different. Dr. James Hazlett, the Superintendent of Schools on the Missouri side had conversations with his staff over the weekend; decided he would not cancel school under any circumstances and left town on a business trip on Sunday afternoon. Thus, classes in Missouri were kept open and students were expected to be in school. Tuesday morning, the dean and I were busily organizing the service as it promised to be a major event attended by most of the clergy in the community, and you can imagine a 26 year old clergyman being in charge of something that massive. What we didn't know at the time was that while we were putting the last minute touches on the service; large numbers of black students were leaving classes at Lincoln, Manual, and Central High Schools and demanding that they be allowed to go home and watch Dr. King's funeral on television. When school authorities rejected their request the young people began to demand that they be permitted to march to city hall to protest. Not one single soul was present in the city with the authority to cancel school. Dr. Hazlett was out of touch. The students' anger and frustration built, some ran through the hallways in the schools kicking over trash cans. The school authorities in some cases called the police and they responded. And, in a couple of situations sprayed Mace on the students. The news that classes weren't going to be cancelled spread like wildfire as more and more kids left school and ran through the hallways of other schools encouraging students to join them. The kids poured out of the schools and into the streets.

March Towards Downtown

By now, we had a memorial service going at the cathedral and at one point I looked up to see a member of the altar guild frantically waving their hands at me and mouthing the words, "Emergency, emergency." Well I moved to her rather quickly and when I entered the sacristy I was given a message for our Assistant Bishop Robert Spears. I got Bishop Spears, who was on the -- who got on the phone and was told that unruly crowds of kids were leaving school and beginning to march towards downtown. The NAACP representative asked that the clergy gathered for the service go immediately to the scene to try to organize the march and to attempt to keep things cool. He told the bishop that there had already been some violence and that he was worried that somebody was going to get hurt.

So, we quickly brought the service to an end. And, the clergy gathered to discuss what to do. There was worry and fear as we talked about our concerns. A group of clergy including our bishops left for city hall, which was to be the destination of the march. And, many of the rest of us headed for the place where the marchers were.

Father Ed Warner, a black priest, who was the rector of St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Kansas City and I, joined a crowd of students at 19th Street and Prospect Avenue, if you know Kansas City. Several clergy who were with us had a good deal of experience organizing marches, so they quickly did an amazing job of pulling the group together. The clergy, many of us dressed in clerical collars, locked arms, and led as the march proceeded; but the feeling was very different than it had been on Palm Sunday. Then we had been so proud of our city and the nonviolent way those in the march responded.

Today, however, I felt fear and apprehension and saw it in the eyes of the clergy who were much more experienced with this stuff than I was.

Confrontation at Truman and Paseo

At each cross street, police cars were in position to block the crowd from staying its course. The police stood silently watching, many of them already wearing gas masks. Although, isolated incidents of violence occurred on the part of students, stone throwing and police use of Mace on groups of students; the march was relatively peaceful until it reached Truman Road and Paseo, just a couple of miles from city hall. The students intended to continue downtown, but were stopped by lines of police. What we didn't know at the time is that Clarence Kelley, the Chief of Police, had told his officers that the students would not be allowed to go any farther than Truman Road and Paseo. Therefore, the tension on the part of the police as well as on the part of the crowd was intense.

And, the crowds pushed towards the line of police with many of the students shouting angrily. The police were obviously anticipating trouble because they were fully dressed in riot gear. Many were holding rifles or cans of Mace and the police dogs were screaming at their leashes and growling fiercely.

The confrontation at Paseo confused and frightened us because it revealed the inadequacy of the city government's ability to respond to a crisis. The school board was a separate agency. The Police Department was governed by a state-appointed police commission and was therefore not answerable to the Mayor. Thus, the critical agencies involved on that day had no coordination.

Here's an example of what I mean; Mayor Ilus Davis, arrived in a police car and from the moment he stepped out of the car he was barraged with angry words, but if he was afraid he didn't show it. He spoke with the students who demanded that they have permission to march downtown. One of the young people asked why the students were being stopped. "Is it because Mr. Mayor, you want to keep the black problem in the black part of town? Are you ashamed of us Mr. Mayor? Is that why you keep us out here with your policeman and the clubs and the gas? We want to find out. We want to go downtown." A number of students and even some of the clergy spoke to the Mayor and to the crowds. A disc jockey from a local radio station said to the mayor, "Let them go downtown Mr. Mayor. They will listen to you." And, Mayor Davis, bravely, I thought, raised his hands over his head and said, "I'll march with you." And, he began to say, "Up Paseo, up Paseo." At that moment two policemen grabbed the Mayor by the elbows, led him back to the police car and said, "Mayor, you're not going anywhere." At that point, all hell broke loose.

Students jammed their way through police lines and ran down I-70 towards downtown. This was a chaotic moment, because the "march" had become a "run!" And, I cannot tell you how frightening it was as students began to run up on I-70, running down the center stripe of the highway with traffic coming.

I remember Bishop Spears and a number of us ran down the highway to try to wave down the traffic. We were so afraid that one of those oncoming cars would mow down a group of teenagers.

Demonstration at City Hall

When the main body of the group arrived at city hall a little after noon, leaders organized a hasty demonstration on the steps. Somebody had come up with a bullhorn for the speakers. Four hundred to five hundred students were jammed together on the plaza between city hall and the county courthouse. Father Warner and I and some of the other clergy who had joined the march stood in the crowd. We were exhausted by our long walk downtown, exhausted by the fear we had felt as we saw the confrontation on the Paseo, and exhausted by running up and down I-70 attempting to wave down traffic. We guessed that most in the crowd were tired as we were.

As the speeches continued a large number of police, sheriffs' deputies, and state patrol, many in full riot gear surrounded the crowd with increasing urgency. Father Warner and I began to worry that this escalated police presence would needlessly increase the tension. And, we spoke to a couple of officers about removing the dogs and putting the guns out of sight. Things had begun to take on an air of a demonstration as speakers took the bullhorn. Some of the young people recited a list of grievances from all that had happened earlier that morning. A young black woman in her thirties and with tears streaming down her face began to tell the students they would gain nothing by burning and looting, as others were doing in cities across the United States. It began to look as though the speakers were establishing some sense of order, although, the numbers of policemen, and dogs continued to heighten the tension.

When it seemed that most of the energy of the demonstration had drained out of the gathering a local disc jockey announced that the students would be welcome to go to Holy Name Catholic Church for a dance.

The Riot Begins

Now, that's really appealing to a bunch of young kids. It's time for a dance. And, somebody had even arranged for buses to be provided that would bus the kids back to Holy Name Church. So, I was so relieved because they weren't walking and therefore I wouldn't have to walk with them. As matter of fact, Father Warner, and I even joked about the fact that we certainly didn't have any intention of walking to the church for a dance, because Father Warner said, "I just bought this brand new pair of shoes and that was before I knew I was going to make a march downtown. And, they're not meant for marching. My feet are killing me." We laughed, but our smiles didn't last very long, because at that precise moment a riot began. Maybe a student threw an empty bottle at a police line; maybe it broke. Maybe an officer launched a tear gas canister. It may have been that an officer simply panicked, and threw a canister into the crowd. Nobody ever knew.

Regardless of how the riot began; the police responded by throwing canister after canister of gas into the now frantic crowd. When I heard those canisters pop, I thought, my God someone is shooting. They're shooting these kids. Students began running as the police in riot helmets and plastic masks charged into the crowd with tear gas, Mace, dogs, and clubs.

Clergymen and the Police

Ed Warner and I turned to run. We had been standing in front of a group of police officers. They saw us. They knew we were clergy. We had spoken to some of them, but as they began moving towards us we didn't stay around. As I started running across the lawn in front of the courthouse, I realized that Ed wasn't with me. I turned back to see him being held by a police officer in a gas mask who seemed to be searching him. I heard Father Warner say, "Wait a minute, I'm a Priest of the Church. I'm on your side." I ran over to Ed, as he tried to talk to the officer, but the police knocked him to the pavement with a club.

Tear gas was beginning to billow around us. Two other officers grabbed me and I was struck twice in the chest with a club. I went down like a rock. I tried to crawl away, but was overcome by the tear gas. Nothing like having the breath knocked out of you and trying to breathe and getting nothing but tear gas. The next thing I heard was the voice of a young black man who screamed, "Hey, a brother is down." The nicest words I had ever heard in my life. About five young black men helped carry me to a parked car belonging to WDAF News Station and the cameraman helped me into the car and lay me in the backseat. As we sped of, he called back to me, "I'll take you to St. Luke's Hospital if you want -- if you can -- but if you can make it" he said, "let's drive by Holy Name." Well I said, "Yes," even though I could hardly breathe and when we got to Holy Name Church from that backseat I witnessed something I'll never forget.

Trouble at the Church Dance

As many as four hundred kids had made it back to the church where a dance was being held in the basement. As we watched, police units surrounded the church. I watched as they blocked the wooden basement doorways, so that no one could get out of the building and then began to throw tear gas through the squat little basement windows. I can still hear the screams of the kids as they were trapped inside the church. It was a horrible scene. At St. Luke's Hospital, I was treated for cracked ribs and taped up. I didn't get back to the cathedral until the afternoon. But, then it had become a command center of sorts to keep track of developments in the city. The dean called me into a meeting. By this time news reports on the days events included stories of the two clergymen who had been beaten by the police.

Threatening Calls

The dean said, "I don't want to frighten you, but we've received threatening calls to the cathedral since the reports came out." My wife and the lives of -- my life -- my wife and the lives of my family had been threatened. Nothing like this, of course, had ever happened to me. And, I was filled with fear for my wife and my three young daughters. The dean assured me that they were fine and that a couple in the congregation were providing a place for them to sleep that evening. I called my parents in Monett, Missouri to arrange for my family to spend the rest of the week there, which they did. They left the next day.

The dean had already arranged a room for me at the hotel across the street from the cathedral. Later in the day, I along with many of the clergy and others who had witnessed the scene that morning appeared on a live television show, which was aired by all the stations in town. I don't know that it's ever been done before. All the stations picked up the same feed. We simply told our stories. They were pretty raw and fresh. We told what we had seen and experienced that morning.

Church Involvement

Grace and Holy Trinity was a busy place that day and for the next four days. The violence in the city increased as students returned home to their neighborhoods and told others of what had happened. By Tuesday night burning and looting had occurred in some parts of town. A seven o'clock curfew was established and police arrested many blacks who violated it. The jails were filled to overflowing. And, the Metropolitan Interchurch Agency arranged for some churches to handle the overflow. And, Grace and Holy Trinity opened its doors and we housed many young people there and it basically was a situation where the police would bring them to the cathedral and we would say, "Look we're not a jail, you can leave if you want. If you leave you'll probably get arrested, so you can sleep the night here. We have cots; we have bologna sandwiches from the Salvation Army. So, take a rest and have a sandwich." So, most of the kids did. I've never eaten bologna, again, because of the memories associated with it.

Staff and volunteers from the Metropolitan Interchurch Agency arrived to take statements from the young people about their treatment at the hands of the police. The agency provided volunteer clergy to act as watchers at every police precinct to protect both those who were arrested, but to protect the police as well from charges of abuse. The cathedral remained open 24 hours a day for the next four days, as violence in the street intensified, and before it finally settled.

The Aftermath

In those four days, six blacks died at the hands of police and many more were injured. During Holy Week of 1968, I have to tell you, I saw the church at its best and I saw it at its worst. I saw the community at its best, and at its worst. At times I was reminded of the days in Monett, Missouri back in the mid-fifties when all those events of Little Rock shocked us so much. And, now I saw members of the cathedral congregation that I served confronting the issues of racism in a way that they had never done before. We couldn't avoid those issues any longer.

I think I want to stop there and simply ask you for questions or comments. I'd be glad to respond to those.

Questions and Answers

Yes, sir?

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: Okay, my name is John LePage. I supported the Jackson, Missouri Police Department January 1, 1961 and retired in August of '92. I spent every minute of that riot at the riot. I disagree with some of what you've said, but I ask you two questions. One is; have you ever heard of Saul Alinksy?

REV. DAVID K. FLY: I have.

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: Okay, do you give him any credit for the riots?

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Ah, no I don't.

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: Explain that? Because he had people in Kansas City, I know that.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Yeah, Saul Alinsky was a community organizer from Chicago.

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: From where?

REV. DAVID K. FLY: From Chicago.

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: But, what was his politics?

REV. DAVID K. FLY: He -- he –

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: He's an out and out Communist. He's an organizer of -- if every place he went had a riot.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: He organized a group in Kansas City known as Project Equality.

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: Yes, he did.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: And, many of the churches were involved in that.

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: I give him an awful lot of credit for that riot.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: You're entitled to that opinion; I just don't have it. You had another question?

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: The other question was; I read your article last January in the Historical Review. Did you interview anybody else than Al Brooks?

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Oh wait, this is -- I had -- I did no interviews with Alvin Brooks. I ran into Alvin Brooks, as matter of fact, last -- a year ago when I was doing a presentation on this very thing in Kansas City. But, no I didn't interview Alvin Brooks for this.

FEMALE UNKNOWN SPEAKER: What happened to the guy that was with you? You said that you got hit to the ground, but you never told us what happened to him.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Oh, he came out of it in pretty good shape. He was able to crawl away and came out of it fine. We often refer to that as our Baptism together.


FEMALE UNKNOWN SPEAKER 2: I wonder what could've or should've been done? Should the police have been – were they surprised by this and really didn't know what to do? Should there be some kind of a training, I mean, it's too late now, but it seemed like it really got chaotic without anybody knowing what to do that was right. They were just trying to do something.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Well these -- these are pretty chaotic times, and John, I'm sure you understand that.

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: Well if -- part of this lady's question, if I -- I didn't think I heard it all. To begin with I was always real proud of Kansas City because there were no pictures that came out of Kansas City looting, which you saw at all of the cities where the policemen sit there and didn't do anything. Chicago is a fine example where you didn't have that in Kansas City. The riot was broke the first night.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: It was very much contained within a very small area.

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: Right, in that very short time, yeah. The six that were killed, I don't know how many -- I've forgotten -- were at the Bryant Hotel.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: I think two at the hotel.

MS. PAT BAILOR: I have pretty much to say, if I may.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Please do.

MS. PAT BAILOR: Not to take away. I'm Pat Bailor, and I was in Kansas City at the same time. So, I really appreciate knowing some things that happened that I had no idea were happening.

I was working as a children's librarian on the eastside of town at Southeast High School. Southeast or the library was in the high school building and that high school had been becoming a predominately black attended school -- high school. So, by the time I was working in the library in '68, most of the young people that came to the children's section were black children. People had moved south on the east side of town.

As my relationship and my other workers that were in the library we had very friendly relationships and feelings with the kids. Things were just a nice, good children's library.

That afternoon when we heard about it, we were -- all of us, well of course everybody, but we were just shocked. And, the library was immediately closed, as were many things. We heard, for instance, well we heard things and these don't relate to the riot per say, but this is how it could happen. We heard the Westward High School, which was farther north, but on that side of town, which probably had a black and white make-up of students was having riots right then, I don't know, you know, this was something we heard. We also heard that the Country Club Plaza, which as some of you may know, which is an upscale shopping area was being looted and rioting was going on and we must go home immediately.

So, I'm just trying to kind of say these are some things that were happening too. I really don't remember other than knowing that the library wasn't open for a period of time.

So, all this was going on then, of course, while the library in a school system. The library was connected -- not directly with the school system, but in the same building as the headquarters downtown at that time.

The positive thing that happened in my opinion, in Kansas City this is skipping ahead past the riots, and you may know of it. I think it was probably connected with Project Equality. We were offered in Kansas City then, perhaps a month to two months later the opportunity to meet white people with black people. And, it was basically set up that way. And, we met on the eastside because most of the black people in Kansas City, at that time, lived on the eastside. We had a continuing series of courses to try to establish some mutual understanding of better race relations. I think it helped.

I'll go ahead and jump to Jeff City, in a minute, because it's something that happened. But, I just point out that we really have frank conversations –

REV. DAVID K. FLY: May I say, excuse me, may I say about that program.


REV. DAVID K. FLY: That was not involved at all with Project Equality.


REV. DAVID K. FLY: That was a program called Kansas City Crisis.

MS. PAT BAILOR: Thank you.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: And, I was involved in the creation of that program, as matter of fact. And, it began in meetings at the cathedral, right after this, and it came out of the plea by the Episcopal Bishop of west Missouri who said, "We need to come together and talk with one another. We're not -- there is a great gulf fixed." And, so that whole program was set up to have blacks and whites sit together in the same room and talk to one another about the issues as they saw them. And, it was a powerful program.

MS. PAT BAILOR: Congratulations, and it has stayed with me forever. Several things, for instance, that happened. I'm just using these as examples was that a young black woman said to me, "I am really tired of seeing white Santa Clauses all the time." So, that, you know, was a topic. She also said, "I'm feel like sitting with you white honkies tonight." That's the first time that I had ever heard that word. And, so obviously we began a dialogue. Well I won't go into detail but I'm happy to know -- I'm proud to know that you were connected with that program.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: I'm glad to know that you remember it.

MS. PAT BAILOR: Well thank you. And, because of it some of you may know of the existing group, I'll put a plug in now if I may, or the group that exists in Kansas -- in Jefferson City called Congregations United for Racial Equity. And, I have been a member of that and those of us who are in the group, I think, many of us are a result of things that happened. I certainly was in that group because of the fact that I was in crisis in that group in Kansas City. Thank you.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Thank you, so much.


MALE SPEAKER UNKNOWN 1: My question isn't really a historical question but more of a question of your perception of racism today. And, in the thirty-eight years since 1968, what's happened with racism from your perspective? Somebody who was very involved in the Civil Rights Movement and how its -- and what's involved in it today?

REV. DAVID K. FLY: (Sigh.) That's a tough question. Because in lots of ways it's disappeared. We've buried it. In those days it was very out there, I mean, it was something that we were dealing with in some -- in some terribly dramatic ways. But, it seems -- let me -- I can only speak from my own experience. Is that in some ways this country has made great advances in relationships between blacks and whites. But, there is so much further to go, so much further to go, and I just don't see us addressing those questions. I just feel as I look out on the society as a whole that gulf is still there. And, it's a gulf that is more -- a gulf of class, you know, and it just so happens that black folks fall into that class. That under class, so much more. But, I think, there's a great divide, and I just don't see us reaching across that divide.

MALE SPEAKER UNKNOWN 1: I'd like to make a comment regarding that. One of the things that I noticed in this past election and a couple years ago is the fact that politicians seem to use race bait so much of the time. And, it comes lots of times from the black side. And, they don't see -- won't let their people forget, you know, those people forget we are supposed to be equal. And, have equal opportunities. But, when it comes to politics it seems like they get into the same thing. So, we have our own leaders that are actually using those things to try to get votes for this or that. And, I'd tell some of these people to stop, but I don't know.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Well part of it -- what -- part of what you're doing with your dialogue group, I think, is -- I'd love to hear a dialogue for a change instead of people yelling at one another.

MALE UNKNOWN SPEAKER 2: What happened in terms of the relationships among clergy from different denominations after the riot took place? Did that -- did you see change occur as a result of that?

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Well it was a very powerful experience for the clergy. In terms of the kind of -- the kind of togetherness that it created, you know, the clergy who were a part of the Metropolitan Interchurch Agency, which were -- was straight across the board Roman Catholic, Protestant Clergy, all of us were involved and were called out to be a part. And, many, many, many clergy had volunteered to be a part. Also, people from the seminaries showed up in these various centers to deal with kids who had been arrested and put in overnight and so forth. It was -- I thought it was an incredibly unified experience for all of us.

MALE UNKNOWN SPEAKER 2: And, did that continue on afterwards?

REV. DAVID K. FLY: It -- I left in '69 so I can't say. I don't know what the church in Kansas City has been like over those years. But, I do know that -- that I was just back at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral last weekend; I stopped by from -- we were driving back from western Kansas and it was -- it was so delightful to be there and to see that cathedral now serve as a center for homeless people. And, see that that cathedral now serves five hundred meals a day to the homeless in Kansas City. And, it's sort of a realization of a dream that the dean of the cathedral had when I was there back in 1966. And, it was a really marvelous thing to see.

Yes, ma'am?

FEMALE UNKNOWN SPEAKER 4: I still wonder what could they have done to make it not so bad. Should of the police just have backed off a while? Let them go to the plaza and just -- finally that's a pretty far distance from there to the plaza, they might have been so tired that it would have dwindled out.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Well, you know, I think, that there was a spirit of confrontation by the time people got down to Parade Park. Wasn't it, John? Wasn't that where the confrontation really occurred?


REV. DAVID K. FLY: By the time it got to Parade Park, I think, it was too late.

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: It was out of control.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: It was out of control. And, I think, that I don't know what could have been done at that point. Whether Mayor Davis could have pulled that off, I don't know. If he had been able to lead a peaceful march downtown, maybe it could've happened. But, it was out of control at that point.

FEMALE UNKNOWN SPEAKER 5: What's the address of Grace Cathedral?

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Thirteenth and Broadway, right downtown. It's near the Roman Catholic Cathedral with the gold dome. We -- that's how we always told people to get there. "Well you go to the cathedral with the gold dome and we're next to it."

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: I would add this, ah, to add to her question. You know, and I don't think you implied it even but these were not a bunch of real goodie, goodie little school kids in this part. There was plenty of hell raisers in that part too, they was looking for trouble.


MS. PAT BAILOR: But, there was ill feeling, I know, for instance I worked in the library with children. But, the high school students were able to use the library and there were disgruntled young people for various reasons; legitimate or not, but there was ill feeling I would say among some of the black students in the high schools; especially on the eastside of town before the unfortunate death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: You know, I would -- I think that what we saw in 1968 in Kansas City was the kind of an inevitable result from a lot of years of both white and black experience that just came together in the envy. The assassination of Dr. King ignited that in a way that there was no going back. And, it was painful.

MALE SPEAKER UNKNOWN 3: You mentioned right at the very beginning Dr. Hazlett, what happened to him?

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Oh, you mean, the Dr. Hazlett.

MALE UNKNOWN SPEAKER 3: (Statement unintelligible).

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Oh, nothing happened to him. He just kept right on going.

MALE UNKNOWN SPEAKER 3: He kept on -- he was -- remained the head of the school system.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: You bet ya, yeah. I think one of the things that I do find interesting or did find interesting about the make-up of the city, in terms of, governmental structures is to have the police board. You know, Kansas City and St. Louis are the only two cities in the country as far as I know that have state appointed police commissions that have no local kind of ownership. It's just sort of an amazing thing, but you saw the disconnect there. The school board, the city administration, every -- it seemed like everybody was unrelated to everybody else. And, so when it came time in a crisis for people to come together to make decisions there was no coming together. People kept missing one another.

Yes, ma'am?

FEMALE UNKNOWN SPEAKER 6: I just had a comment. I was teaching in Gary, Indiana. I graduated from Lincoln, as I tell the students, one hundred years ago. And, I was teaching in Gary, Indiana at that time. And, I can remember Gary was -- well is predominately African American and I remember just the sense of great loss and I think that when you think --when you talk about the situation and write about it. I'm glad you have written about it because you're writing from your perspective and that's a good thing because you do have to have a diversity of perspectives in order to understand something. Because it's almost we're looking at it with different eyes. Each group, each person, and it's a combination of our experience that makes our eyes see it in a different way.

And, I can remember that it was such, to me, it was like I had lost a member of my family. When I heard it, it was like, "Oh, God, not him." And, then the thinking that is he or was he our last hope for equality in America and this American dream that we have -- that African Americans were beginning to hear it voiced out loud and people were talking about it. So, it was like a death in the family, and I think, many young people viewed this as their last hope, the last chance, you know, and so they reacted in ways that were very different than what we might think they should've acted in adults. But, I do believe that the fact that the clergy was involved not only in Kansas City but in many other places that its an important thing and to write about it so that it stays in posterity because many of our students today don't know. They don't understand where we came from and what it took to get us here. And, they don't really appreciate the struggle, the loss, you know, the sense of we're in this and is this, our last hope with Martin Luther King.

Today, they applaud Martin Luther King. Some people hated him then. And, you didn't hear everybody talking about, "What a wonderful guy." They said he was a communist, you know, so I'm glad you're writing and I'm glad that we're talking about it and I do believe it makes our country a better country and that we are more in line with our Constitution and what we say we are when we talk to each other. And, we exchange information. But, I do believe we have to understand there are different eyes looking at a different situation many times seeing different things. But, together we may get the true sense of what it is.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Thank you, so much. Thank you, I was thinking that John and I and I'm sure very different perspectives on how we saw all that stuff.

I've got a dear friend down at the Lake of the Ozarks; I was sitting having a drink with one night and we were talking about this and Kansas City came up and I began to tell the story and he said, "I was a member of the National Guard. I was called into Kansas City." And, we sat there and talked about those times with one another and talked about different perspectives, very different perspectives. He said, "You know, it became real for me when they issued live ammunition, I knew this was serious, you know." So, this was -- it was an amazing kind of coming together of two people who saw things very differently and yet were able to share those views. And, it sure helped me.

MALE SPEAKER UNKNOWN 4: A friend of mine, I mean, I'm reminded of -- first of all, it could have been a lot worse. But, a friend of mine reminded me of the chaos and the confusion that was there all through this. And, he was a member of the Kansas National Guard and he went out there and -- he was talking about one evening, and it was dark, he and some friends were -- some of his Guard buddies were standing at a point and they saw a number of people walking towards -- they couldn't make out who they were or what they, you know, they couldn't make out anything but they were coming towards them. And they -- I know the thought crossed all of their minds is do we open up on them? Do we shoot? And, they came on up -- they got up and walked under a street light and it was law enforcement officers, highway patrol, police. I'm telling you there was a point when they were going to shoot 'em.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: This was done at the level of fear with the folks we're dealing with. I remember I was in Kansas City, I guess, last spring doing a presentation at the plaza branch of the Kansas City Library and it's a new facility and as you stand there you look out through these marvelous plate glass windows on to the rooftops of the plaza. And, all I could think about as I was doing this presentation from 1968 was the National Guard patrolling the rooftops with rifles and not a soul moving, it being a ghost town. It was the most dramatic kind of scene.

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: If I could object to one of those comments. We had two officers who took care of all the police work in the entire city during the riots. That's how naked the streets were. They were just bare.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Yeah, I know, they really were bare.

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: People were afraid to go out.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: They were afraid to go out and really with the curfews they couldn't go out.

MR. JOHN LEPAGE: That's right, they couldn't.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Yes, sir?

MALE UNKNOWN SPEAKER 5: I was wondering if based on 40 years later reflection what sort of comments you might have on world religion in American politics.

REV. DAVID K. FLY: Well let me share with you when we were involved in setting up the Kansas City Crisis Program, which brought folks together, there was a young black social worker, a guy named Bob Jones, who was working with us and he was instrumental in helping us set this up. And, the program would be done mostly in churches or in homes of church people with churchy folks. You know, that sort of thing, but -- or non-churchy, whatever. And, Bob was not a member of a church. And, I remember saying to him one time, "Bob, you're not a church member." I said, "Why are you putting all this energy into this program?" And, what he said to me was, "David, I believe a time is coming in our country when people will no longer have a forum in which they can speak civilly to one another." The church may be the only place where that dialogue takes place.

Now, I'm not so sure 40 years later that the church provides that forum in which civil discussion can take place. And, one of the things that worries me is I don't see many places in our society for any kind of civil discussion. And, if I was urging anybody to do anything today, it would be to try to inject that kind of sense -- that kind of sense into our society. And, I have spent my life working to do that kind of thing.

I moved into a parish after serving many years in campus ministry after Kansas City. I moved into a parish in Kansas City in the suburbs, I mean, in St. Louis suburbs; Grace Church, Kirkwood, Missouri. And, I remember one time, soon after I got there that we had a men's breakfast every Wednesday morning around a big square table. And, I walked in one morning and Mr. Conservative was sitting on one side of the table and Mr. Liberal was sitting on the other side of the table. You couldn't find two guys that were further apart on issues. And, they started going at one another. Now, I was new. I wasn't sure that these guys weren't going to come to blows, you know, and I was sitting next to Mr. Conservative and I thought, you know, I'm going to have to inject myself into this thing because this could get serious. You know and finally he turned to me and said, you know, he said, "I couldn't say these things to him if I didn't love him." He said, you know, "We lived under this roof together for a long time." I thought my God, that's the vision of the church or that's the vision of a civil conversation that that guy was talking about to me back in 1968. And, I was really pleased that I had been there at that moment to see it and to hear it.

(Musical interlude.)

I've been grateful to have the opportunity to write this paper and very grateful to have it published. And, have the opportunity to talk with folks about it, because as you say it -- every time I do this there's an opportunity to share different perspectives from different people who were there at the time, who saw things happen, and who bring together that rich kind of picture of what was taking place. So, again thank you, very much. I've enjoyed being with you.