Best of times, worst of times: 50 years ago in June

50bugNCPR first signed on the air March 7, 1968 and we will be celebrating our Golden Anniversary all year with a lot of special events, such as our musical float in today’s Dairy Princess Parade in Canton, featuring The Noncommitals with our own Radio Bob, and a cow jumping over a radio tower.  Stop by our table and say hi.

1968 was what you might call a happening time, and not always in a good way. Here are some of the things that happened in June of that year. We’ll start off easy…

In music


Aretha Franklin gets some respect – June 1968 cover of Time magazine.

You might say, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”  Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” hit #1. The Rolling Stones released “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and Iron Butterfly released In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” But “Yummy Yummy Yummy” by Ohio Express also hit #4 on the charts, and “Tip-Toe Thru’ The Tulips With Me” by Tiny Tim clocked in at #17. Aretha Franklin got some respect, becoming the first black woman to make the cover of Time magazine. The first large free concert ever held in the UK attracted 650,000 people to Hyde Park in London; “Midsummer High Weekend” featured Pink Floyd, T-Rex, and Jethro Tull.

Assassinations and assassins


U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Photo: Evan Freed, public domain

Robert F. Kennedy defeated Eugene McCarthy to win all 172 delegates in California’s Democratic presidential primary. Moments after thanking supporters, Kennedy was shot and fatally wounded at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Police arrested Sirhan Sirhan, a citizen of Jordan who had been a U.S. resident for 12 years.

James Earl Ray was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport for the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. after 65 days on the run. Scotland Yard officials said that he had been carrying a loaded pistol and two false Canadian passports bearing the name of Ramon Sneyd.

Pop artist Andy Warhol was shot several times and nearly killed in his studio, “The Factory,” in New York City. Valerie Solanas, a self-described radical feminist who had founded the “Society for Cutting Up Men” (SCUM), told police that she shot Warhol because “he had too much control of my life.”

In politics and society


Statue of Saint Peter Photo: Wolfgang Sauber, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

The Poor People’s March on Washington, planned by Martin Luther King, Jr. before his assassination in April, took place as a multiracial crowd of impoverished Americans and their advocates gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Coretta Scott King was the keynote speaker.

Columnist Joseph Kraft coined the term “Middle America” to describe Americans who are middle class and neither young nor minority. The St-Jean-Baptiste Day Riots, blamed on Quebecois separatists, broke out in Montreal during a visit by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act was signed into the law by President Johnson, creating the pattern for most American national holidays to fall on Mondays.

Pope Paul VI announced that bones found in a tomb discovered in 1950 beneath St. Peter’s Basilica were the remains of Saint Peter.

In war and peace

General Creighton Abrams assumed the command of military operations in the Vietnam War. His 4-year tenure would mark the transition from “search and destroy” missions to “pacification” and oversee a decrease in the number of U.S. troops from 543,000 to 49,000. The U.S. Command announced that it would pull its troops out of that nation’s northernmost province, Quang Trị and close the Khe Sanh Combat Base where Marines had sustained over 2,500 casualties earlier in the year.

Analyst Daniel Ellsberg was indicted for leaking the “Pentagon Papers” that detailed the strategy and secret history of policies leading up to the war, and its escalation. Dr. Benjamin Spock, a pediatrician, popular author and anti-war activist, was convicted in Boston for conspiracy to disrupt the selective service process, along with three of his four co-defendants.

The United Nations General Assembly voted to approve the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The U.S. returned the island of Iwo Jima and the Bonin Islands to Japan after 23 years of occupation following World War II, allowing the return of Japanese citizens.

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