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Donald Grant, Oral History
Recorded: February 24, 2017
Interviewed by Lae’l Hughes-Watkins
Transcribed by the Kent State University Research and Evaluation Bureau
Note: This transcript includes geo-references to locations that are discussed in the oral history. Geographical names linked in the transcript will open in a new window or tab that takes you to that location information and map in the Mapping May 4 project. To request a transcript without geo-reference links included, please contact Kent State University Special Collections & Archives.
[Interviewer]: This is Lae’l Hughes-Watkins speaking on February 24, 2017 at Kent State University Special Collections and Archives as part of the May 4 Oral History Project. I will be speaking with Donald Grant, I would like to begin with a few biographical questions. First, where did you grow up?
[Donald Grant]: Well, I was—high school, I was in Ridgewood, New Jersey and prior to that I was outside of Boston for middle school, and elementary school, outside of Buffalo, New York.
[Interviewer]: Okay. Could—I want to back up, where were you born, specifically?
[Donald Grant]: Massachusetts.
[Interviewer]: Massachusetts. And when did you first come to Kent State?
[Donald Grant]: I came in the fall of 1966.
[Interviewer]: Do you recall the circumstances that brought you to Kent State, what drew you here?
[Donald Grant]: Yeah, I do. Basically, my father passed away when I was a junior, in New Jersey, so I found myself working full time. The state schools in New Jersey are nowhere near as large as the state schools in Ohio, so, the guidance counselor suggested Kent State, which I’d never heard of. I had never—I didn’t have the money or the time to go look, so I just accepted, I applied and got accepted, and in September of ‘66 I show up at Kent State in Clark Hall. There I was.
[Interviewer]: Clark Hall. What was your major when you arrived?
[Donald Grant]: When I arrived, I was going to be in education and phys. Ed., and after the first quarter I switched to business.
[Interviewer]: Oh, you switched to business. What made you decide to do that?
[Donald Grant]: I realized I couldn’t make as much money—doing the education side—as I could in possibly business.
[Interviewer]: Can you recall or remember what was the atmosphere at Kent State when you arrived to campus?
[Donald Grant]: It was a classic example of a bunch of eighteen-year-olds away from home for the first time trying to figure out where to go next. It was fine, I went to all the sporting events, all the football games and basketball games. I joined Delta Upsilon fraternity, and just studied. It was no special atmosphere other than normal college, before all this anti-war stuff had gone on.
[Interviewer]: Do you remember when political—or protests actually started to appear on campus?
[Donald Grant]: I’m sorry, the first part of that was what?
[Interviewer]: I’m sorry, do you remember when you first might have acknowledged when protests started to happen on campus during that time?
[Donald Grant]: Yeah, that would’ve been my junior year. I can’t think what it was—it was—it wasn’t a major deal, but it was—the anti-war thing had begun.
[Interviewer]: Okay. And so now I do want to take you to that time where we’re leading up to April 30 and then into May 4. So, if you can tell me what you can recall that happened around that time?
[Donald Grant]: Well, I remember that—President Nixon was going be speaking to the country that evening, no idea what he was going do. But, he had this big board showing Southeast Asia, and North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, all of that, and he was describing how the Vietcong would be attacking our troops and then jump across the border into Cambodia, which they referred to as the sanctuaries. So, he said he made the decision to go after them and not let them just shoot our guys up and then jump across the border. So, he ordered troops—he’d already done it, to go in, starting that night, and go get them. The reaction, of course, was half the country said, Oh, let’s go get them, finally! The other half of the country said, God, you’re expanding the war, what are you doing? And there was the split.
[Interviewer]: Do you remember where you were, or what you were doing May 1st, 2nd, and 3rd?
[Donald Grant]: Yeah, absolutely. Friday was May 1st, and it was the first really warm night after winter. Must’ve been 90 degrees and downtown Kent was wall-to-wall bars, probably still is. And a lot of people from around the area would come to Kent. So, you’re all down in these bars, some of which are down a flight, some are just same level. I remember at eleven o’clock at night, there was kind of a commotion down on Water Street, you had the kids’ anti-war chant going on. There was this—like a bonfire of some sort in the middle of road, which made no sense, but there it was. Then there was this older couple in a car trying to drive down that way and got caught, and people were shaking the car and scaring them. Then, there was some people throwing, whatever they were throwing, through windows. And, as more kids would come out of these bars at eleven o’clock after drinking for a while, they kind of got caught up in it. Some people just were watching. This went on for—I don’t know how long it lasted, but the police came out and there’s the Kent Police and possibly the university police, and there was nowhere near enough Kent Police to deal with this, nor were they trained for it. But they eventually pushed the students back down to Main Street and up toward the campus, and, as they were doing that, they’re starting to arrest some people, some people who just walked out of a bar, weren’t even part of it, would get arrested, they didn’t even know why. But this thing went on for a while. But, eventually, it dispersed and they’re back on the campus or they left town. That brought you to Saturday.
Saturday, there was a bunch of rumors flying around there was going to be a rally on The Commons, which we’ve seen that in the past, whatever the issue was, it’d be: rally on The Commons, there was the Victory Bell there, this was not out of the ordinary, but obviously given the night before, it was in everybody’s mind. And then the university, or the police, I’m not sure who it was, put a—forget the word—you weren’t allowed to go downtown, you had to stay on campus. I forget the word, I’ll think of it in a minute. So anyway, so a lot more kids were on campus that night and, as this thing got going, and daylight saving had kicked in by then, so it didn’t get dark right away. But as this thing got going and then it got darker, somebody, had a—light up a stick with a rag on it that had been soaked in gasoline or something, and they lit it, and they threw in the window of the ROTC building, which was a tinderbox anyway. That thing goes up and obviously that’s when the fire department came and they hacked the hoses so they couldn’t get the fire out. So, that time was getting pretty confusing and, at that point, I left. I went back to my apartment off Main Street.
Well, you wake up on Sunday morning, it’s a beautiful day. You start walking around the campus and all of the sudden you notice there’s these National Guard—are everywhere. They’re literally on the yellow lines in the middle of the street looking at every car. It was just very strange and, at that point in time, they announced that the National Guard was in control and there’d be a curfew—that’s the word—curfew. You can’t go downtown, and you have to be in your dorm or your apartment and you can’t congregate—congregations two or more. Basically, all during that day we just talk about all this. Then when nighttime came, following the next day was midterm day, so in theory, everybody was going to be studying.
So, what happened next is that—at this point, I’m back in my apartment and I’ve got people in the Tri-Towers dorms, I’m not sure if they’re still called that, which is mostly underclassmen. Our fraternity house was on Main Street right at the top of the hill, because the top of the hill, if you keep going, from campus you go down into town, if you come from downtown, you come back to campus, and it was 312 East Main Street, it’s probably gone today, I think. So anyway, I’m on the phone with various fraternity brothers and pledges and everything else. So, we’re talking to some of them who belongs in Tri-Towers, and they are telling us about the—this group in that circular area between the three towers, which I think is cafeterias and lounges, or whatever. But, one of the guys who was trying to get the anti-war rally going Saturday night was down there, and he’s trying to get these kids to come out even though they’re told, You can’t come out. Next thing you know, they said, this group leaves, and they went over from dorm complex to dorm complex, trying to get more people to come out. Meanwhile, National Guard has got helicopters, I think there’s three of them, they were flying around the campus and everywhere with big spotlights and megaphones, and they could follow this crowd around, and so I’m sure they communicated with the rest of the National Guard.
But, we were over—our apartment was down Main Street away from the campus, going toward Ravenna, it’s like a big horseshoe-shaped deal, so a bunch of us in the apartment parking lot talk about all of this, and the helicopter shows up above us, just hovers and puts a big spotlight on us. It’s got a megaphone, and basically says, “On the order of Governor James A. Rhodes of Ohio, Martial Law has been enforced, or applied, and you can’t congregate. You must go inside your apartment.” And you saw a lot of single fingers going up in the air—the helicopter, and just laughed at them. The helicopter’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing apparently.
Meanwhile, as this group of kids gets bigger, they start heading toward town. They’re back on Main Street, moving toward town, they haven’t passed the corner yet. What’s the street there at the corner?
[Interviewer]: On the corner of Main Street?
[Donald Grant]: Yeah, where the campus is or the “K”? You know the uh—
[Interviewer]: I’m not the best with geography, I feel bad, I can’t recall that street.
[Donald Grant]: Okay, well, there’s a Perkins Pancake House on one corner, I’m not sure if that’s still there or not.
[Donald Grant]: But anyway, it’s right there at the corner [ed. clarification: corner of Main and Lincoln Streets] and what’s going on next is, the guys in our fraternity house could look over the hill toward downtown and they see a lot of National Guardsmen coming up the hill. But the hill is in the way between the kids and the Guard, but eventually the Guard comes up the hill and they’ve got their bayonets fixed, and they’re marching, and they’re marching like in step, all the same step, the same time, it would make these noises like, “Rrrrrrr—” to make them sound like they were big and tough, and whatever. As they get down to where the kids were—by the way, on the other side of the kids, on a parallel street, another Guard group came in behind where the kids had already passed. So now, the Guard is coming at them from two directions. As they’re all getting close, the kids just sat in the street. The Guard kind of surrounded them, and no one knew quite what to do. So, all the demonstrators said, We want to talk to President White. And the Guard, not knowing much about the campus, they said a comment like, We’ll go get him. So, they leave, thinking he’s in his residence, but he’s not there, I think he’s out of town. And they came back and said, “He won’t talk to you”. So that riled up the students. When I say students, some are not really students, but most of them were. Somehow, you know, some girl got bayonetted, and had to get an ambulance in there for her and that kind of scared everybody, including the Guard. So, everybody kind of just dispersed at that point. And that takes care of Sunday night.
Now, the first thing on Monday morning, remember, it’s midterm time. I go to my first class at 7:45 and there’s a bomb scare. It was the first class of the day, so not that many people were there.
[Interviewer]: There was a bomb scare that Monday morning?
[Donald Grant]: Yep. In the building. And then the second class, there’s a bomb scare, again. And the third class came around, at that point, yeah, there’s a bomb scare, but everybody ignores it. So, I go in this class, I forget what class it was, and the professor said, “I don’t know about you guys, but we’re not going to do any midterms because I couldn’t even finish it with all the commotion last night.” He says, “Let’s just talk about what everybody’s feeling, what are they hearing, what’s going on, what’s happening here?” Well, there was one girl in class said, “Well, my sister goes to Ohio State, and I was down in Columbus the prior weekend, and they had a situation down there with the kids and riot patrol people out there.” But she’s listening to some of the people, and she hears these people say, We’re going to be in Kent next weekend. And it never crossed her mind at the time but, after the weekend—one weekend later—there’s National Guard and these guys on campus, and she said, “I think we’re being manipulated, there’s an outside force here that’s going around, and they were in Columbus last weekend, now they’re in Kent.” So that was kind of interesting.
[Interviewer]: Do you remember what class this was?
[Donald Grant]: No, I had four of them in a row, it was my last semester—quarter. I can’t remember what it is. The next class was the same thing, nobody could—no tests were going to be happening, it was just going to be: keep talking. What’s interesting was, is that, about that time, there’s these fliers going around the campus and they’re also going around the campus on Saturday night. But these talked about a rally on The Commons at noon. These pamphlets were flying around, back then, with certain events, these things had to be stamped by the student activity center or committee or some organization that approved these things, but none of these things had any stamp on it. Well, somehow, they’d already printed these things up, spread them all over the place, people picked them up, and that’s why, at noon even, a bunch of people were gathered to see what was going to happen. So, what you see is the burned down ROTC building, with maybe half a dozen Guardsmen around it, and then you see kids gathering on The Commons and they start their anti-war, One, two, three, four… we don’t want your blankity- blank war, and they’re cheering this thing on.
The National Guard jeep with four guys in it go out to them with a bullhorn and they’re saying, Order, that this Martial Law’s been—approved or dictated, whatever the word is—and you guys have to leave, you can’t assemble. And, of course, that went nowhere and there were some rocks thrown at the Guard. But, then, the jeep goes back and, down from the practice football field, comes a whole lot of Guardsmen and they line up in front of the ROTC building facing The Commons. And they put on their gasmasks and they start firing tear gas in the crowd. And, just so happens that the wind was blowing from right to left, strong enough to pretty much blow the tear gas away. So, the kids who had run up the hillsides, on Blanket Hill, on both sides—had there been, was it journalism or architecture building?—so, the kids could now come back down figuring they must’ve won this battle because the National Guard didn’t work. So, down comes more National Guardsmen from the football field. And this time, they put their gas masks on, they put their bayonets on, and they start marching toward the kids. The kids are throwing things back at them, but they’re moving away. All the sudden, you see these scary-looking Guardsmen with bayonets and whatever, Listen, this is weird, this is really weird. But the Guard moved forward, and the kids split, going, I’d say maybe 70% to the right, and about 30% to the left, on both sides of the architecture building. Taylor Hall, that’s what it’s called?
[Donald Grant]: The Guard just goes up the hill and follows them. So the Guard is now at the top of the hill, and kids have gone down the hill, down through that road that went to metropolitan, or not metropolitan, must be—Memorial Gym—there’s a road there, and then there’s another practice football field was there, and the Guard’s up there and they kind of notice that that football field is like fenced in on three sides, or two sides, anyway, and they’re looking at that and going, Geez, I think we maybe trapped ourselves here.
Now, so the Guard, they turn around and they start kneeling and aiming their rifles at the kids. The kids are pretty scattered at this point, there’s not that many people that close to them. So, the Guard, realizing they didn’t really want to be next to that fence because it had a gate in it, but it wasn’t very large. So, they started retreating and went back down that road, up the hill, and as they got to the top of the hill, all the sudden these six guys on one end just turned and fired, and the rest of these guys didn’t know what was going on. I’m not sure who thought they had real bullets anyway, but all of the sudden they fired. So, some of the Guard turned around and saw these other guys were shooting so, I don’t think they could tell what happened. So, some of them fired too, then some I think just fired at the ground, I think some fired at the air, and, lo and behold, I find out from Howard Means, there were sixty-seven shots fired. I remember the exact number. But, obviously it was complete pandemonium at that point. I mean they had shot through the parking lot, they had shot into cars, they had shot into—they hit people, obviously. And it was total panic. And if it wasn’t for Glenn Frank, who was my geology teacher, who knows what would’ve happened. He finally got them to stop. At least not to continue. At that point, when that firing started, I just got out of there. I was kind of walking behind all of this as they moved along, so I went back to the fraternity house, on Main Street right on top of the hill. At that point in time, the phone system went dead. They got overloaded. If we tried to make a phone call, it just went out. You couldn’t tell what was going on. Next thing you know, you have these state troopers and police cars of surrounding cities and towns all screaming into Kent, going fast, and you go, What in the world is going on? I mean, they must’ve gotten everyone they could possibly get to get to Kent and they couldn’t communicate. Maybe the police bands would work, but if you had to pick up a phone, you couldn’t do it. So, eventually, there’s like six of us, five of us, sitting on a front porch trying to figure out what’s up. A highway patrol, or a state trooper, whatever Ohio is called, they pull up on the front lawn in the police car, and there’s four officers in there. Their rifles are aiming out the window—not aiming— they just put them out the window to get them out of the car. But they said, “School is closed for a week, you have one hour to leave town.” And that’s apparently what they were telling everybody. So, there’s 20,000 kids being told to leave town in one hour. How do you do that? You know, lot of kids don’t have cars.
[Interviewer]: Did you say two Black girls were killed?
[Donald Grant]: That’s what they said, that’s what the radio said. As we kept moving down the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and you get closer to, you know, Pittsburgh, at that time that was all wrong, what they were saying, I think, what they were saying, as we kept moving toward D.C., and we had to go through Maryland and parts of—I forget what it was, Virginia, whatever it is. We get to D.C. about eleven o’clock at night, and we’ve called up this fraternity brother and he said, “Meet me at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove restaurant at eleven o’clock and here’s where it is, it’s not that far from the Supreme Court.” So, we go in there, now you have to think, back in those days, there was no such thing as cable, there was just three networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC and well, radio stations, but—so we get there and the TV’s on, the eleven o’clock news is on which was, you know, local D.C. stations and they’re showing pictures of all this, and, at that point in time, they said they’ve killed four kids and they wounded nine others, no National Guard. So, that much—at that point—it was given, or figured out. But, keep in mind, what happened is that the FBI was called and they swarmed over into Kent, with everybody they had, trying to figure out what was going on, search everything. So, they had the most knowledge of anybody. So, anyway, as we’re sitting around the bar, and we’ve been talking all the way down for eight hours or maybe nine hours in the car—we started to piece together things. So, we all decided what we should do is go find the guy from House of Representatives that has the Kent District. And go find him and go tell him what we saw, what we think happened—or what we pieced together, it was nowhere near voluminously in detail because you didn’t know what was going on.
So, we show up at the Capitol on nine o’clock on Tuesday morning. And we find the congressman, his name is Bill Stanton, we walk in and, amazingly enough, we wore our blazers, because we were going go in to see a senator—congressman—and we say, “We’re from Kent and we want to talk to the congressman—” This is the receptionist, she said, “Be right back.” She goes in and Bill Stanton comes out, like fast. We introduced ourselves to him and he says, “Come in my office.” It’s amazing how little anybody in D.C. knew about this, any kind of detail. Again, there’s no cable, the phones weren’t working, okay, the FBI was the only one, along with the police, that knew anything. So, we’re telling Bill Stanton our whole story and he says, “I tell you what, I’ve got to get a plane to go back to Kent—Akron, I think it was—because I’ve got to vote.” It was the primary that day—so, he had to leave but he said, “Let me get you, let me get—I’ll be right back.” He’s gone about ten minutes, and he comes back with his aide and he says, “I want you to go over to see Senator Saxbe from Ohio and Senator Dole, and they want to see you.” So, away we go. This is different, you know, part of the Capitol. So, we go, we’re in Dole’s office and he and Saxbe are there, and the five of us walk in, and they start saying, “What happened?” So, for two hours, we talked to them and they had us acting out, you know: you’re the Guard, you’re the kids, how’d this work, and all this stuff. They knew nothing and all of the sudden there was someone there that knew something, so they couldn’t get enough of it.
They open this door and it’s a long hallway with a kind of red carpet, there’s all these pictures on the sides of the wall with President Nixon meeting President Thieu of South Vietnam, here’s President Nixon meeting Apollo, whatever it was. This whole—pictures. Then we get to a place where there’s a table and a couple of chairs, and there’s like newspapers from all over the country that somehow they get. I wouldn’t say all over the country, it was probably D.C. area in general, or maybe the New York Times, that kind of thing. So, we were looking at these things, and, sure enough, there’s the pictures of what we all saw. So, then this guy comes out of this elevator and he says, “You boys follow me please?” While we get in this elevator, the elevator has got—there’s no floors, you just—you don’t know where you are, you just—it moves, but, you don’t know where it’s going. So, we ask the guy, “How do you know where you’re going?” He says, “That’s for me to know, you don’t need to know that.” Oh, okay. And we go upstairs, we get out on some floor, there’s a couple couches there. And then John Ehrlichman comes over, introduces himself, and he says, “I need to have you guys tell me everything you’ve seen, that you can remember.” Just like you and I are doing right now. And he had another guy with him named Leonard Garment who was Nixon’s law partner, apparently. I guess he gets involved if they want to federalize state police for federal purposes, or whatever, some story. So, we’re going through the same deal we did with the congressman and the senators and, pretty soon, we knew exactly who was going to say what on our side. We all had a different perspective on certain things. So, we’re doing the same routine for Ehrlichman, but Ehrlichman knew a whole lot more than everybody else because he had the FBI information, so he already knew a lot of things that nobody that we talked to so far knew. So, he able to ask more pointed questions. Did you see anybody with guns? Did you hear anything? You know, anything you can piece together. So, we did this for two hours and, needless to say, this has been the strangest day of my life. We’re all standing around, our shirts were, you know—armpit wet—it was kind of stressful really.
But he says, Ehrlichman says, “Tell you what, I’ll get you a tour of the White House that most people don’t get to see. It just so happens, we have an intern here who graduated from Kent last year, and I’ll get her to take you around.” And she does. So, we’re looking at all these green rooms, red rooms, the Roosevelt Room is where the Cabinet all meets, we get to peek in the Oval Office, we get to see the Rose Garden. We actually get, what’s fascinating was, there’s a room in that place that has more computers I’ve ever seen in one place, and apparently it’s this same way in the Pentagon, all these computers, but the White House has them, too. I never knew that, that was kind of interesting. So, finally, we finish that and Ehrlichman says to us, “Tell you what, if I need to get ahold of you guys for any reasons, what if I call you, what phone number should I call?” It just so happens this guy Tom Rall, who we were staying with, was literally moving that day into a three-story brownstone, and the phone was just going in, so we didn’t know what his phone number was. So, he says, “Tell you what, if I need you, I’m going to call Congressman Stanton and I can get my question answered that way.” So, we leave, head out of there—just like a whirlwind. And we’re trying to figure out what do we do next, and somebody [unintelligible] said, “Well, you know all we’ve done is talk to Republicans, we got to go up to the Democrat side, go see Kennedy and Stennis and Mansfield and—” somebody else. So, that was our plan for Wednesday.
So, we wake up on Wednesday morning, I told the congressman we’d just call and check in and give him the number. So, I call the congressman’s office, he’s back. And he goes, “Well, thank you for calling, the White House”—I’m sorry—“The president wants to see you at ten o’clock.” We were just waking up. And it was probably like nine, I guess. So, I’m trying to tell these other guys that I just—, “The White House wants to see us, it’s the President at ten o’clock.” Didn’t even believe me. Then they said, “I don’t think he’s kidding.” And I said, “I’m not kidding.” You never saw five guys get ready so fast in your life because they were coming to get us. So, we finally realize that the five of us and the congressman and his aide can’t all fit in his car. So, he says, “Damn, I forgot about this.” We said, “We got a car.” He’s like, “Oh, good, you guys follow us over.” Now he sees this 1967 fire-engine red Chevy and his congressional car, and we go over to the back of the White House this time. Looked kind of strange, a bunch of guys in a red Chevy over there, but okay.
So, we get there, and the same Marine guards are there, and they know us, they know who we are. Well, the funny thing is, everybody was cleared to go except for the congressman, they forgot to get him cleared. So, we said, “Hey, Bill, it’s kind of who you know around here, you know!” And he eventually gets in. We parked the car in the same place, down the same walkway, different set of papers, and this time, this guy takes us up again, not knowing where everything is, and we end up walking into the Roosevelt Room. The Roosevelt Room, you’ve seen before, that’s where all the Cabinet members meet with the President. So, you look on the back of chairs and here’s, you know, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, yada yada yada. In there—in the room is Ehrlichman, Ziegler, Haldeman, and Henry Kissinger. And they talk among themselves about the primary the day before, We backed this guy, he won, we backed this guy, he lost, and this is this. We’re just listening, we’re almost like we’re invisible, but they’re talking about all this stuff, then left. So, Ziegler comes over to us and says, “Look it, you’re going to get fifteen minutes with the President, you have to make your case, and that’s the deal here, he wants to hear what you have to say, but you got fifteen minutes.” So, finally, this aide comes over and says, “The President will see you now,” so we have to start walking across the hall. I happen to be the nearest one to that door, so as I walk across, these guys all follow me, Kissinger didn’t come with us. But the congressman, Ziegler, Ehrlichman, Haldeman, and the other four of us are in line.
I walk in and there’s Nixon behind his desk. And, of course, you see the red hotline phone—used to have that then, probably still do—you got the flags, and here’s the blue carpet with the presidential seal on it. So, Nixon comes around, he introduces himself one by one by one to all of us. He says, “Where you from?” I said, “Ridgewood, New Jersey.” He says, “Oh, I remember, that’s next to Paramus, I remember that from campaign days.” So, he spent a minute with each of us, we’re all going, Oh my god, this is going to be the fastest fifteen minutes you’ve ever seen. And he’s describing the congressman’s wife as one the most attractive wives in Congress and yada yada. So, finally, he says, “Why don’t you guys have a seat?” You know that picture that I sent you, is that still there?
[Donald Grant]: Okay, so when you look at that, and we see this—it’s like a semi-circle of chairs nearest the President’s desk, and we see two couches, two chairs closer to the fireplace and a chair in the middle, which is Nixon’s, obviously. We didn’t know where we had to sit, so we saw, we saw Ehrlichman, Haldeman, and Ziegler sit in the semi-circle of chairs, so we just kind of filled in. So, I was just to the left of Nixon. So, we’re kind of looking at our watches, one of our guys said, “Mr. President, here’s what we’re here to tell you.” And we began, literally, now our well-rehearsed presentation, and he was just listening, he asked a couple questions along the way and then Ehrlichman said, “Tell him about this, tell him about this,” so we’re telling him all the stuff. So we’re there, and a half hour’s gone by now and next thing you know, out of the woodwork, in that picture, you might be able to see it, there’s a door, but there’s really no frame around it, this guy—this sort of banker comes in with his suit and his vest on and he comes in and the President says, “This is the butler, what can I get you to drink,” he says, “I recommend this iced tea with lime, it’s really good.” Okay, so he kind of broke up the tempo, that is, the—this is one of the funnier stories, one of our guys, says, “I’ll have a scotch and water.”
[Interviewer]: A scotch and water!?
[Donald Grant]: Yeah, scotch and water! I thought Ziegler was going to have a heart attack, he was trying not to laugh. It was kind of funny. So, we had to finish all these orders. And then Nixon says, “You know, you have these meetings all day long, and they give you coffee all day long, and sometimes your tongue is kind of thick, you can’t even talk.” And one of my guys says, “You mean like the last twenty minutes?” And he didn’t ask that many questions, but he was listening, so it was—let me get right back at it again. We kept on going, and about twenty minutes later, this guy comes—he brought the drinks in before, but twenty minutes later, he comes back in again and he says, “Mr. President, the Ambassador is arriving, he’ll be in the so- and-so room.” And Nixon says, “He’ll have to wait a little bit.” That was probably the Ambassador from Timbuktu, for all we know. But, we had his attention.
So, we basically asked him for three things. “One,” we said, “We would like you to consider a presidential commission to investigate Kent State,” because we had this feeling: they’re going to blame the kids for everything. Then we said—if you looked at that Life magazine article, in my stuff here, it said, ‘The Presidency, a Leadership Crisis.’ And that’s because Ehrlichman or Haldeman were the two effective guards of what he—who he’d see. They were—Haldeman was the, effectively secretary—he was the President’s right-hand guy, there’s a name for it. And Ehrlichman was in charge of domestic affairs. So, if anybody wanted to come see the President, they had to go through Haldeman or Ehrlichman. And it was getting to the point where they thought he was sheltered, the papers say he’s been sheltered, he doesn’t get out there, doesn’t know what’s going on. So, we said to him, “If you can’t get out there”—with students for example, because there’s this big Saturday Washington Monument rally planned—“If you can’t get out and meet people, and talk to people, well, send your staff out, do something to get your arms around this thing because you’re sheltered.” And the third thing we said to him was, “Whenever all the investigations are done—" because the FBI was clearly doing one, and if we got a presidential commission to look at it, that’d be two, and the Portage County Grand Jury was doing a third—so, “We want you to come out and tell us what you think.” And then we left. He gave each of us a pen to sign a bill into law with, it was kind of fun.
And we go back to the Roosevelt Room. Tom Rall had come with us, but they didn’t let him get in the Oval Office, they left him in the Roosevelt Room. So, Ziegler said, “I’ve got to tell you, you had his attention for an hour and that creates a problem because we publish—with the press downstairs—the schedule for the day, and it only changes if something serious, you know, [unintelliglble] happened.” He says, “You were in there for a fifteen-minute deal, it took an hour, the press corps is going to say, What happened?” So, Ziegler said, “What I think you guys should do is have a press conference and just tell them whatever you want to tell them, answer their questions.” And we’ve seen some of them on TV before, they didn’t look very friendly. It was totally out of our realm. But, the congressman said, “Tell you what, I will set this up for three o’clock in the Rayburn Building.” That’s where his office was. “We can help you with it,” and Tom Rall says, “I can help you, too.” He’s a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, he’s used to this kind of stuff. So, we go, “Oh, geez, oh.” So we kind of get—we’re kind of convinced of this, that, you know, if you don’t talk to them yourself, they’ll make things up or they’ll guess, so we kind of agreed to this. So, we went back over to this three-story brownstone and we get in the room and Tom Rall says, “Okay, you have to tell me everything you said from the time you walked in to the time you walked out because we have to make a statement for the press.” We go, What’s that? “Well, you have to make a statement of who you are and what you did here, what you’re doing.” Okay. So, we start working on this. Meanwhile, the congressman told us to call his office and do not hang up the phone because, he said, “My phones are going to be ringing off the hook, and I might not be able to get back on there with you, so just keep the line open.” So, we’re taking turns holding this phone, he has somebody in his office taking turns holding their phone. As we start trying to rehash all this and figure out what all happened, I was on the phone for one of these ten-minute spells, and I said, “Just out of curiosity, who comes to this?” And his assistant says, “Uh, well, the wire services, the major networks, the major papers, you know, maybe 150 people.” Woah.
So, I put my hand over the phone and tell these guys what she just said. Now we’re really getting nervous. So, next time I was back on the phone they were asking me for my mother’s phone number, I go, “What do you want that for?” “Well, we need to tell her what’s going on because you guys will be all over the nightly news tonight, you’ll be on all three networks.” So, I give her the number. She calls my mother and says, “Your son has just left the Oval Office with the President, you probably will want to turn on the TV tonight at five thirty,” or whatever time it is, “and you’ll probably see him.” My mother says, “You know, he told me he was going to go see a friend, I didn’t know he knew the president.”
[Interviewer]: That’s a good one.
[Donald Grant]: Yeah, one of the other guys—his father worked in a high-rise in Cleveland, so this gal calls him up and says, “Mr. Tretinik, your son has just left the Oval—yada yada yada.” He goes, “Can’t be my son, there’s not a chance in the world.” So, this goes on, this goes on and on. So, now we’re really trying to type up this, you know, this statement for the press and it’s like quarter to three. The congressman gets on the phone and says, “Where are you guys?” I think he’s afraid we weren’t going to show up. We said, “Well, we’re typing up the statement for the press for you.” He goes, “I’ve got four [unintelligible] waiting for you, get over here!”
So, we go over, and quickly. We hand this thing to him, but we never got the last paragraph done, so we had to draw straws to see who was going to read this thing and make up the last paragraph. I didn’t get that one, fortunately. So, we follow him, and we’re going down through the Hall of Congress, we get to this one room, there’s this big, white ABC color camera right inside the door and all these wires coming out the door. We look in and it’s like a mini kind of auditorium in a way. There’s this table down there, all these microphones on it, you probably can see them in some of the pictures. We go, Oh my god, this looks—
So, we walk in, we start hearing these comments like, These guys can’t be students, c’mon, they don’t have long hair, [unintelligible], who are these guys? Okay, great. So, then we sit there, [unintelligible] at the table, the congressman’s in the middle, my big brother and I are on the one side, on the left as we—if you face the table. Other the guys were on the other side. They’re trying to get their sound and their lighting working, so while they’re doing that—do you remember the TV anchors, Huntley and Brinkley?
[Donald Grant]: Okay, well anyway, the way they used to say things, “What do you think, Chip?” “I don’t know, David, what are you thinking?” So, Sam Trego and I are kind of playing that game, as all these people—milling around and fixing stuff. We’re kind of saying that to each other, so we’re kind of breaking the tension up a little bit. So, anyway, the congressman finally starts and he reads his statement, which is in the stuff here, which basically says, “I didn’t know who these guys were, they walked in my office, I had to go back to Ohio to vote, I sent them over to Saxbe and Dole”—and the other one— “And Ehrlichman met with them on Tuesday night, then the President wanted to see them on Wednesday morning, they met with the President for an hour and they’re here to tell their story.”
So, Dick Cutler was the guy who got the short straw, so he reads ours, and we’re all waiting for the last paragraph to see what he says, and whatever he said was fine. We were relieved. So then, they start out, and the congressman goes to the wire service first, AP and UPI, and they ask some questions. And then you get to networks, and Nancy Dickerson, I think she was NBC, Sam Donaldson was ABC, somebody else was CBS—all household names back then. They’re asking these questions and we’re trying to answer them, but along the way, this one guy, I’m not sure who he’s with, all he wanted to know is were we for or against the war. That’s all he wanted to know. And he wouldn’t stop asking it.
I finally said to him, and I had my pen in my hand, I pointed it at him, I think it’s on one of these pictures, I said, “We just lost four kids, we got nine others—one of our fraternity brothers, or pledges, was shot through the neck. We’re not here to talk about—what we think of the war, we’re just trying to talk about what happened and how tragic all this is.” So anyway, that picture, it somehow must’ve picked up at UPI or AP because it was on the front page of almost every major newspaper in the country. So, the congressman had warned us that, “When this thing is over, you’ll know when it’s over because it’ll just happen, but what you have to do is get back to my office because they’re going to corner you.” Okay. So, about forty-five minutes into this thing, somebody says, “Thank you very much,” and they all head—they head for the phones, back then they had to call in reports. And then a few people will come up to us and try to get us to talk to them, and all the sudden, this one guy says he the reporter for the Newark Star Ledger. I was the only kid from New Jersey, other guys are all from Ohio. And all the sudden he’s on a first-name basis with me and he wants to know all this information, “Where you going next, what are you going to do,” yada yada yada, “Can you come talk to us?” I said, “No, we’re set to leave.” We finally get back to the congressman’s office, once the crowd had thinned out, and we waited there for a while until everybody was really gone. And he says, “I thought you did fine, I think, you told your story and you did fine. What you guys need to do is go back and watch the nightly news because, at five thirty, it’s ABC, and at six o’clock, it’s NBC, and at six thirty, it’s CBS.” I mean, I’m used to seeing some of those guys around the same time usually. Learned a lot in D.C.: all politicians want to see themselves on TV, so they make these networks all be separate times.
[Interviewer]: Oh, that’s interesting.
[Donald Grant]: Yeah. Some ‘babes in the woods’ here. So, anyway, we watch it and nobody took anything out of context, the CBS anchor at the time was Dan Rather and he was the only one that you could tell was—thought this thing was awful. I mean, thought the kids were really, you know, not at fault here. You know, “Who’s sending in the National Guard on a campus with loaded rifles,” that kind of thing. So, anyway, next thing that happens is Tom Rall’s unlisted phone starts ringing. It’s some guy from the New York Post. “How’d you get the number?” No answer, they just want to ask questions. We got a call from somebody from Chicago who says, “We want all or some of you guys to come to Chicago to be in the—” It’s a talk show, god, white haired guy, classic—
[Interviewer]: I don’t know, Phil Donahue?
[Donald Grant]: Yes, Donahue, bingo! Very good, Lae’l. Donahue, The Donahue Show.
[Donald Grant]: Okay, so two of us fly out to Chicago and we—they put us in a motel, and we come in his office the next day—or his studio. We’re sitting on the couch and he’s asking questions, and we’re answering them. Then he opens the phone lines up. Jesus, he started getting guys that, “They should have shot a lot more of you, they, you, ruh ruh ruh ruh ruh—" You know, and of course Donahue would have to shut him up, cut him off. That’s when this, “Young Americans for freedom, you guys are, yada yada, you should be doing this or doing that.” I mean, this was just kind of crazy. So, that went on. Some other guys went to New York, because [unintelligible]. And then we all went to Cleveland for some deal. That was after—that’s after we came back to school.
So, after we—after this all is done, the next day is Thursday and the White House announces that Nixon is going to send his staff to the rally at the Washington Monument on Saturday. We go, Whoa, that—look at that, he actually did it! They also announced that Nixon has asked Bill Scranton to hold—to head up the Presidential Commission on Campus Unrest. Wow, there’s two! We’re doing pretty well here. And then, the classic was on Saturday morning, at five thirty, Nixon and one Secret Service guy went to the Lincoln Memorial where people were sleeping everywhere and he’s talking to them. He actually went himself! If you read Howard Means’s book—have you read that, by the way?
[Interviewer]: I’m in the process of finishing, I’m halfway.
[Donald Grant]: Okay, then you probably get the part where he’s—they’re talking about Nixon meeting the Kent State students, and one of his comments was, You know, that’s was the dumbest thing he’s ever done, he’s out there by himself when, you know, geez. So, maybe he was losing it a little bit, I don’t know. He came.
So, we didn’t bother with the Democratic side after talking to the President. That wasn’t—what’s the right word? Appropriate. So anyway, that day we just took our day off, we just went to see the Lincoln Memorial, you know, the Washington Monument, Arlington, you know, all that stuff. And, Friday morning, we’re getting ready to drive back to Kent and we get a phone call from the FBI, says, “We want to talk with you guys.” I said, “Well, we’re about to leave.” They said, “We’ll be right over.” We kept thinking maybe it’s just the press again.
So, we’re looking out the window, looking for the classic FBI car, a Ford Fairlane or something, you know, that TV show was called The FBI—the kind of cars they drove. Well, anyway, we finally see a car like that, two guys get out, come to the door and they show us their badge. Okay. We go upstairs on the third floor and, for two hours, they’re grilling us. Not in a negative sense, they’re trying to find any little tidbit that might give them a clue to something, What did you hear? What did people say? Did you see any guns, did you—you know, this went on for two hours. These guys are incredibly thorough. So, we finished that up and we headed off to Kent. At this point, they’ve already said they’re closing the school for the semester.
[Donald Grant]: Yeah, then we’re going, Great. How are we going to finish our classes and when will all the teachers figure that up? They spread out across the Northeast, wherever people were, and finished the classes as best they could. Enough so you can get your grade. So, I get back to my apartment and one of my roommates is one of the ones that came with us. Get a phone call. FBI. They want to come talk to us. Different guys, same kind of questions. Okay, this is interesting.
So, I get a flight home, I’m back in Ridgewood. The FBI calls me again and says, “We want to talk to you.” More of the same questions. But, this time, I’m starting to get some interesting hate mail or weird phone calls and stuff. So, they said, “Keep track of all those,” which I was doing, and they knew exactly who they were. It’s the same kooks that do this all the time. They could tell exactly who they were.
So, anyway, we found ourselves—effectively graduated. So, then I start my job in California and it’s now January of ’71 and I’m working at a training program at Wells Fargo Bank. I’d already had my job even before this whole thing started. But, interestingly enough, Nixon says as we left his office, he said, “If any of you guys want to get a job in government, let me know, we can find places for you guys.” And if I had said—if I didn’t get my job—and I said, “Oh, I’ll look at that,” my whole life could be different! Like, I could be in the East Coast instead of the West Coast. So, anyway, so the people that worked in this branch office where my training [unintelligible] was, Friday afternoon, and had this older lady at my desk, she wants to open a checking account, so I’m doing the paperwork for her. Somebody walks across the branch and says, “Don, the White House is on the phone for you.” People in the branch knew the story. The old lady says to me, “You can do better than that, I just want my checking account opened.” So, I said, “Really, I have to go take this call.” So, I take this call [unintelligible] three other extensions picked up at the same time. It was Bob Finch, and Bob Finch was Nixon’s Chief of Staff, he ran for California Governor and all that. So, by the way, if you looked at this stuff, you’ll find the letter I wrote to him.
[Donald Grant]: Okay, So, he was—so I sent that letter and all the sudden I get a phone call. What he said is, he says, “I just left with the President, and we went over your letter, and we know you could take it to the San Francisco Chronicle, you know, whoever, but our conclusion is, is that since the Kent State situation, there’s not been one campus unrest since, and whatever I say—” and by the way, it was pretty clear, he was backing the kids— whatever he says, he’s going to tick off half the country, didn’t matter which half it was. He says, “The President would like you to just to let it drop, if you would, because I want to get campus [unintelligible] going again.” I said, “Okay, that’s fair enough, I appreciate the fact that you answered my letter and I will not bring it up again.” And I never did, unless to tell a story like this. You know, it’s funny, because when I was talking to Howard Means about this, I called Howard [unintelligible] when I read the book. Somebody saw this book and said, “You got to read this.” So, I read it. And when I find on page 148 this reference to the kid that went to see Nixon, and I said, “Howard, you missed the whole chapter. You missed the whole [unintelligible].” Probably because we’d all left school and never came back. So, if there could be ever a second printing or something, he might—put a chapter in, but, yeah.
[Interviewer]: Can I back up a little?
[Donald Grant]: Uh-huh.
[Interviewer]: Because you put in a lot here, so when you and your classmates, and if you could tell me the names of those that went with you?
[Donald Grant]: Dick Cutler.
[Interviewer]: Dick Cutler—was it D—I just want to make sure I got the name. Dick Cutler. Dean Powell, Sam—?
[Donald Grant]: Sam Trego.
[Interviewer]: Trego. Don Tretinik.
[Donald Grant]: Dan Tretinik.
[Interviewer]: Okay, and Tom Brumbach.
[Donald Grant]: He—let me give you one more, Dean Powell.
[Interviewer]: Okay, right, Dean Powell.
[Donald Grant]: Those were the five of us that went. Somehow, when they—I don’t know where it was, Tom [Brumbach]—we didn’t even know him, he must have been in one of these congressmen’s offices or whatever, and next thing you know, he’s tagged along with us. He never said a word in any meeting.
[Interviewer]: So, when you decided—so when you and your friends decided to make that trip, I mean, what were you thinking or hoping you were going to accomplish? Obviously, you didn’t think all of this was going to transpire, but what was your initial hope?
[Donald Grant]: Well, we literally hashed this idea on the way down as we talked to each other for eight hours and realized we all had seen different things over time that might have led up to this, or whatever, that’s when we finally said, with Tom Rall, who’s the—he was the Chicago Tribune Reporter who graduated two years before. So, we’re telling him the stories, says, “You’ve got to tell the story to somebody, somebody around here. Let’s go find the congressman from Kent.” We said, “Probably a pretty good idea, let’s see if we can do that.” We really hashed this stuff on the way down.
[Interviewer]: So, as time passes, and you—and I don’t know if you would have realized that at the age that you were, but when you see that he, that President Nixon actually follows through with your request, did you really understand the gravity of what your visit did?
[Donald Grant]: It happened so fast, Lae’l, we could barely even figure anything out. I mean, we were just—I mean, this congressman throws us into Senator Dole and Saxbe, next thing you know you’re with Ehrlichman, this is all within hours. And, I mean, it was just going so fast, it was like—that’s when we realized [unintelligible]—I think we’re in Dole’s office, Senator Case of New Jersey calls and says if you’ll come off—you come to my office, I’ll come up the Senate floor, because he heard there was guys from Kent in the Capitol, and one of them was from New Jersey, how he heard that, I don’t know. They were so thirsty for knowledge, we had everything they didn’t have. It was fascinating.
[Interviewer]: So, once the reports started to come out based off the suggestions of the group that you went with, do you remember how you felt once the President’s report came out, the Scranton Commission happened, do you remember your feelings?
[Donald Grant]: Well, we were just—well, impressed they did it, and the detail—now, keep in mind, they had all the time and delivered all this detail by themselves, they found stuff that I didn’t even know about. Because we left—I swear, Howard’s book is so good because he’s got that thing from all different directions and he—this is forty-six years after it happened. I mean, this thing turned into, you know, a real piece of history. We didn’t even have that kind of feeling, we didn’t know what the hell to think, then.
[Interviewer]: Since May 4, do you think your views, and I really don’t know, I don’t know if you really had a specific view when the shootings took place, but do you think your views of what happened at that time has changed over time?
[Donald Grant]: Well, I was never radical to start with, I was just an observer, not expecting what happened—happened. But, see, I was not political—I was a just a simple, college kid, you know, worried about intramurals, and is there date for the fraternity party coming up, and classes, and the usual, and trying to get a job. So, I wasn’t radical in any way, shape, or form. I will tell you, after this happened, I became the most avid reader of anything having to do with current events. I get a hundred emails a day from various sources around the world that look at things. Pretty interesting.
[Interviewer]: Do you remember how your family felt, like did you get a chance to touch base with your family after all of this transpired?
[Donald Grant]: Yeah, I went from Kent, because it closed, back to New Jersey. I lived in an apartment with my mother and my brother. And my brother, I think, at that time, was in the Army. But, if you can believe this, there’s pictures—the local papers would come in to my mother’s apartment or where she worked, and take a picture of her holding a picture of me.
[Donald Grant]: You know.
[Interviewer]: How long did that go on, the back and forth with the FBI and then this attention from the media, do you remember how long that went on?
[Donald Grant]: About a week.
[Interviewer]: A week.
[Donald Grant]: After the FBI got us in three places, and they all knew that, they just keep going back and thinking maybe I thought of something I didn’t think of the first time. But they’re incredibly thorough, my goodness.
[Interviewer]: Is there anything else you—I’m sorry, go ahead.
[Donald Grant]: Well, five years later, okay, I get a call in my office at Wells Fargo in San Francisco from a guy named Pierre Nadeau. Pierre Nadeau is the—he’s the Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes in Canada.
[Donald Grant]: He was trying to come out. He went and picked out five people, five years later, to see what we all were doing, what do we think about. He got me, he got the gal who’s the—the gal who’s over Jeff—what’s her name, she was a fourteen-year-old runaway.
[Donald Grant]: Yes, Mary Vecchio.
[Interviewer]: Mary Vecchio.
[Donald Grant]: She was only fourteen when she was there—happened to be there. Kind of a crazy deal. He got the guy who was—a guy that was on my floor as a freshman, he’s a well-spoken Black guy who is now an attorney, he was—they got him, and they got the guy who was the president of the Kent Stater at the time who is now in South Dakota working with Indians or something. So, he came out to California, and, of course, people in the bank had heard the story. And they wanted to come to my office to see where I worked and what I did. The bank said, Why don’t you meet him outside, I’m not sure we want the publicity or whatever it is. So, fine, okay, so we go down to Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco and we’re walking along the pier there and a camera crew behind us just talking about whatever he wanted to talk about. And he says, “Can we get some shots of where you live?” Okay, well, I live thirty miles east of San Francisco in a little town called Danville, it’s a subdivision, a subdivision I actually financed through Wells Fargo. And he said, “Well, can you get some of your friends in so we can talk about what you guys are all doing.” So, a couple of guys came in, and we spent two hours with him, and that was that and they went back. I never saw what they put together.
[Interviewer]: Oh wow. Wow. I wonder if it’s out there somewhere.
[Donald Grant]: If you figure out whatever the—Canadian Broadcasting Company, maybe?
[Interviewer]: We’ll have to do some digging. Well, is there anything else you would like to add that I didn’t think to ask you?
[Donald Grant]: No, but it’s just—I’m going to just put this here. I was following the legal case along the way because the Portage County Grand Jury decided that the kids were at fault, so I think they—I’m not sure what would come out of that but, at one point, and I think it’s in Howard’s book, I’m sure you got it somewhere. John Mitchell who was the Attorney General, got in the middle of all this because what he did not want to happen is National Guardsmen prosecuted for murder, because if that’s the case, you going to have a problem with all sorts of civil unrest. If some Guardsman shoots somebody, they can go to jail. So, somehow, I don’t know how he did it, but all the sudden one day, it was gone, this case, just over with.
[Interviewer]: Wow, I hadn’t heard that.
[Donald Grant]: You have to poke around Howard’s book, see if you can find some of that. But, I’ve seen it elsewhere—I was following all this stuff. I’m sure you’ve got James Michener’s, Kent State: What Happened and Why, somewhere here.
[Interviewer]: Yes, we do. We have his publication.
[Donald Grant]: Yep. Find a place for Howard’s book.
[Interviewer]: Oh, we will. That’s part of our archives, we always do. Any of the May 4 publications that come out, we try to make sure we have a copy.
[Donald Grant]: Right. It’s funny because like, somebody gives me this golf ball, my doctor actually. Are you a golfer by chance?
[Interviewer]: I’ve only done putt-putt.
[Donald Grant]: Well, I get this book and this golf ball and it’s from my doctor and he bought six dozen golf balls with his initials on it, but he also—he could pick any numbers you wanted to be on the golf ball, normally it’s a one, two, three, or a four. He gets “67” put on the ball [unintelligible]. So, I sent this thing back to Howard when I sent this thing I sent you.
[Donald Grant]: I said, “Howie, I got a golf ball here for you.” He says, he looks at it and goes, he says, “Wow, that’s perfect.” I told him he should try to—I said, “Shoot it, like a golf shot.” The pun being, you shoot the rifle, sixty-seven shots. He says, “No, I’m going to put this on display,” wherever he’s got.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, that’s something to keep.
[Donald Grant]: Well, I tell you, I’ve got more, if you want one for you.
[Interviewer]: Oh sure, you could send one.
[Donald Grant]: You could put it with his book.
[Interviewer]: Well, if there isn’t anything else you would like to add, I’m going to officially conclude our interview at this time.
[Donald Grant]: Okay. One thing that’s funny, is that over the years, it’s been almost fifty years, I’ve had friends of mine’s sons or daughters, they get into college, and they get into history stuff, and a lot of times they get into this era. And my kids, they had to study Kent State one time. So, this causes, I’m going to send you over to a guy who was there. So, I get these kids who are in college, high school, or whatever, and I sit down with them and tell them the same whole story and that suddenly made their assignment more interesting. I was at a board meeting at Sage Hill School which is a private school here that we’ve got going, and I’m in a board meeting, and my daughter emailed—texted me from her class, says, “They just started talking about Kent State, you got to come down here.” Yeah, right—teach her class.
Anyway, it’s one of those things that when it happens out of the clear blue, it was just—yeah, it’ll never happen again, to me. Hopefully, we won’t have this kind of situation. Because, when I got back home to New Jersey, and I get with my friends and their parents, I had parents saying, They sure should have shot a lot more of you, with a straight face.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, we continue to hear those statements. That continues to come up and a lot of people I’ve interviewed or that’s been here for commemorations through the years, they recall those statements, that very statement.
[Donald Grant]: Yep. I find it—I find certain parallels to today in terms of how divided people are. Terribly divided.
[Interviewer]: Well, we really appreciate you adding your account to our May 4 Oral History Project and just thank you very much for your time today.
[Donald Grant]: Okay, thank you.×
Student at Kent State University in 1970
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Donald Grant was a junior majoring in business at Kent State University in 1970. He was a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity; their fraternity house was located between front campus and downtown Kent. He describes the events that took place downtown on May 1, the burning of the ROTC building on May 2, and the confrontation between protesters and the National Guard on Sunday, May 3. He also relates his eyewitness account of the shootings. He describes, in detail, what happened to him and a group of friends who, when it was announced on May 4 that the campus was closed, left Kent and drove to visit a fraternity brother who lived in Washington, D.C. The next morning, they walked in to the office of their representative, Congressman Bill Stanton, and they eventually ended up in an hour-long meeting with President Nixon on May 6. As eyewitnesses, they had information about what had happened at Kent State that was desperately needed.
|Length of Interview||
|Time Period discussed||
College fraternity members--Ohio--Kent--Interviews
Cutler, Richard K.
Delta Upsilon (Kent State University)
Evacuation of civilians--Ohio--Kent
Frank, Glenn W.
Haldeman, H. R. (Harry R.), 1926-1993
Kent State Shootings, Kent, Ohio, 1970
Kent State University. ROTC Building--Fires
Means, Howard B. 67 Shots
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
Ohio. Army National Guard
Powell, Dean M.
Rall, Thomas B.
Stanton, J. William (John William), 1924-2002
Tear gas munitions
Trego, Samuel H.
Tretinik, Daniel G.
Ziegler, Ronald L. (Ronald Louis), 1939-2003
Special Collections and Archives
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Kent State University
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The content of oral history interviews, written narratives and commentaries is personal and interpretive in nature, relying on memories, experiences, perceptions, and opinions of individuals. They do not represent the policy, views or official history of Kent State University and the University makes no assertions about the veracity of statements made by individuals participating in the project. Users are urged to independently corroborate and further research the factual elements of these narratives especially in works of scholarship and journalism based in whole or in part upon the narratives shared in the May 4 Collection and the Kent State Shootings Oral History Project.
May 4 Collection