I decided to revisit the controversy by reviewing newspaper articles about it in the Arkansas Gazette, Arkansas Democrat, and Arkansas Traveler newspapers. I have written a longer account of the elements of the controversy that I have posted on Scribd. Here I will provide an abbreviated (but still long) version of the story. (The scribd link is as follows: http://www.scribd.com/doc/122793691/Arkansas-State-Senators-Mutt-Jones-Milt-Earnhart-and-Dan-Sprick-take-on-Muhammad-Ali-The-Symposium-69-Controversy )
The Controversy Begins
The controversy stated soon after a story was published on February 13, 1969 in the Arkansas Gazette providing information on the lineup of speakers for Symposium '69. In roughly a month, six senators, an NBC newspaper reporter, a NASA scientist, a civil rights activist, and former heavy weight champion Muhammad Ali were scheduled to appear on the UA campus..
|Arkansas Gazette, Feb. 21, 1969 p. 1B|
Milt Earnhart Proposes a State Senate Resolution
A few days later, onFebruary 25, state Senator Milt Earnhart of Fort Smith introduced a resolution in the State Senate to condemn Ali’s upcoming appearance at the University of Arkansas. Earnhart had served in the state House of Representatives from 1958 through 1967, then had been elected to the state senate in 1968. One of his campaign cards listed among his qualifications his introduction of a law to outlaw the communist party.
|From Earnhart's blog:|
Senators Moore, Wade, and Caldwell argued this most elemental case for academic freedom beautifully. About all we would add is to remark anew the strange sense of insecurity that moves members of the legislature to oppose letting students hear someone ilke Cassius Clay. What on earth or in heaven are they afraid of? (Arkansas Gazette, March 1, 1969, p. 4A)
Senator Earnhart Writes a Letter and George Lease Replies
When the speaker was not advocating separation of the races, he was praising George Wallace to the skies, both of which stands seem to accord with the plurality of voting opinion in the state. One wonders again what the advance fuss was all about. (Arkansas Gazette, March 20, 1969, p. 6A.
The Old Guard Senators Visit UA
Six days after the Ali speech, three state senators and a state respresentative traveled to the University of Arkansas to take part in a special session of Symposium '69. Two of the speakers, Sen. Guy "Mutt" Jones and Milt Earnhart came to explain why Ali should not have been allowed to speak on the UA campus. Sen. Jim Caldwell of Rogers, the only Republican in the state senate, and Rep. Herbert Rule of Little Rock came to defend his appearance.
|Northwest Arkansas Times, March 19, 1969|
|Arkansas Traveler, March 10, 1969, p. 1|