Carolina Gay Association Southeastern Conference, 1976

From April 2-4 of 1976, the Carolina Gay Association (CGA) hosted the first annual Southeastern Gay Conference, a conference dedicated to “furthering the feminist and gay movements.” Tom Carr, the CGA Conference Coordinator, called it “a celebration of the gay lifestyle.” A major theme of the conference was how the gay identity, whether open or hidden, influences society, and that theme was addressed by three out of four of the major spokespersons.

The three spokespeople in question were Dave Kopay, Loretta Lotman, and Perry Deane Young. Dave Kopay was a running back for the Washington Redskins and one of the first professional football players to come out as gay (in December 1975). The Daily Tar Heel reports that in a press conference, Kopay said:

Many athletes are trapped by the feeling of macho heaped on the male in the U.S. To be homosexual and an athlete in unheard of. Hopefully there will be more athletes to come out now.

Young was a former writer for the Durham Morning Herald who was collaborating with Kopay on a book about homosexuality.

Lotman was the media director for the National Gay Task Force, a videotape producer, and additionally founded G-MAN, the Gay Media Alert Network. In her panel she discussed the discrimination faced by lesbians in the workplace and how they dealt with both sexism and homophobia.

The convention’s keynote address was delivered by Franklin Kameny, “the first self-acknowledged homosexual to run for Congress.” Though unsuccessful, he was nonetheless a man described by The Daily Tar Heel as “the country’s leading gay activist.” At the time the article was written, two gay congresspeople had won their seats since Kameny’s campaign. In his address Kameny stated that his campaign, even though it didn’t end with him in Congress, was beneficial to the gay community, partially because of its impact on the government’s political structure and partially as an effort to shift how queer culture was perceived by the minds of the general populace.

Read more about the Carolina Gay Association here.

References:

The Daily Tar Heel 4/05/1976

 

The Avery Incident, 1977

On April 22, 1977, Brooksie Harrington wrote a letter to The Daily Tar Heel about an event that occurred as he hurried past Avery dorm three days prior.

As I passed, I was bombarded with racial slurs and obscenities. Now if I had been as utterly stupid as the person shouting, I would have gladly sought him out and beat him senseless. But the coward shouted from one of the upper floors. Not only that but I was drenched with water, as some of the guys threw water from the upper windows. (DTH 4/22/1977)

As it turned out, Brooksie wasn’t the only victim. Around midnight, a large group of black students fell victim to the assault after attending a Campus Governing Council meeting where they demanded increased student government funding. According to Black Ink, the official publication of the Black Student Movement, three groups of BSM members were pelted with “water bags and obscenities” (Black Ink 9/9/77). The organization sought to prosecute several residents of Avery with little success, insisting that the incident was racially motivated.

A 1977 collage of UNC African American students in an issue of Black Ink.

BSM Vice-Chairperson Phyllis Pickett didn’t buy that the event was a prank, asking, “[h]ow many people pass by [Avery] at 12:00, coming from the library or whatever? Definitely not enough to hit with such a large quantity of water” (Black Ink 9/9/1977).

An investigation was carried out by Lt. David Williams of the University Police, who filed a comprehensive report containing accusations by fifteen black students. The Student Attorney General at the time, Elton Floyd, decided not to prosecute the water balloon throwers because there was a “lack of sufficient evidence” (DTH 10/17/1977). Despite having insufficient evidence, Floyd held a report by the University Police for 6 months, a report containing signed confessions of involvement by seven of Avery’s residents. Each confessed to different degrees of involvement, but all insisted that the prank wasn’t a purposefully racist attack.

In his written deposition for the police, which was quoted in Black Ink, Avery resident Scott Young said “The Blacks totally blew this thing out of proportion and just wanted some added attention. Because of the Blacks’ falseness etc. of the facts concerning this incident, my opinion of the Black is considerably lower.” (Black Ink, 9/7/1977)

Another Avery resident, David Osnoe, said in his deposition, “There is no need for a BSM (Black Student Movement) because it is a separate, distinct, racist organization. It should be changed to be called ASM (All Students Movement) to promote brotherhood and friendship between all races here at the University” (Black Ink 9/9/1977). In 1977, fewer than 7% of students were African American.

Lt. Williams agreed with the Avery residents in his summary of the case: “The Avery Incident appears to have been a prank that later turned racial, rather than being racially motivated from the beginning.”  The confessions by the residents of Avery were inadmissible in Honor Court because the University Police told residents that statements wouldn’t be used against them for prosecution (DTH, 10/17/1977).

BSM chairperson Byron Horton said that he didn’t consider the Avery incident a closed case and that he would continue to push for the prosecution of those responsible “to eliminate recurrence of such incidents” (DTH 10/21/77). Despite Horton’s protests, Floyd only reiterated that the case was closed (DTH 10/26/77).

References:

Daily Tar Heel (articles cited above).

Black Ink (articles cited above).

Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill records, 1945-1990 (bulk 1973-1980)
Finding aid: http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/40301/

High Noon Society, 1974

On November 19, 1974, a group of parents took it upon themselves to write Chancellor Ferebee Taylor an ultimatum: “It is the consensus of my husband, myself, and a large number of our friends (including several attorneys), that if action is not taken to stop this illegal activity on state-owned property that we may bring suit against the university…”

An image from The Daily Tar Heel opinion page. (DTH, 10/18/1974)

The source of the writer’s ire is an organization known as the High Noon Society. The purpose of the club, as reported by its 227 members in the October 25, 1974 issue of The Daily Tar Heel, was to gather at the Bell Tower or Forest Theatre and “take it easy.” Students would form a crowd and just get to know each other, relaxing and taking a moment to unwind from the stress of academics. So why did the club attract so much attention from concerned parents?

Mostly it was because of the marijuana.

The Daily Tar Heel reported that the club was a group that “smoke[s] pot and socializes on Fridays at noon,” and they certainly weren’t wrong. (DTH, 1/10/1975) “To imply that there is no marijuana smoked would be less than candid,” admitted even a letter defending the club. (DTH, 10/25/1974) High Noon quickly became famous as High Noon, and the publicity caused it to blossom from a dozen members at its formation to a large gathering approaching 300 members.

News release from the Dean of Student Affairs Donald Boulton, 9 January 1975.

By early January 1975, press coverage and public interest had pushed UNC’s administration into action. A mysterious plan was announced to “halt the marijuana use of the High Noon group,” but its members were unphased. The club met that Friday and smoked pot anyway, and the university put its plan into action. Several photographers were placed atop Wilson Library to photograph around 50 of the Nooners entering the Bell Tower lawn. The Daily Tar Heel reported that an assistant dean of student life admitted that surveillance was part of the plan to end the smoking. (DTH, 1/10/1975)

At the same time photographers were spying on them, leaders of High Noon held a conference with 30 members about alternatives to smoking pot. A High Noon with beer or liquor rather than weed was an idea tossed around for a while. The group then remembered that public consumption of alcohol is also against North Carolina law. Around half the Nooners smoked pot after the photographers left, blazing it even in the face of adversity. (DTH, 1/13/1975)

Several Chapel Hill lawyers declared that the photos would have no value in court, mostly because it was impossible to tell whether the club was smoking tobacco or weed. One lawyer went so far as to call photographing High Noon “the most incredible, mind-boggling invasion of civil liberties [he’s] seen in a long time.” (DTH, 1/17/1975)

The Chapel Hill town council later met with the police to discuss the photos. It’s unclear how the meeting ended, but the High Noon Society disbanded shortly thereafter, ending its short (but dramatic) life. It’s not easy being green.

References:

“High Noon, 1974” in the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Nelson Ferebee Taylor Records #40023, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finding aid: http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/40023/

Various articles from The Daily Tar Heel cited above.