Significant National Events: 1964-1970
This seven-year era was a tumultuous time in the country but a period of relative stability for MSU. President Lyndon B. Johnson won the 1964 election over Republican challenger Senator Barry Goldwater. Johnson successfully advanced his "Great Society" agenda which consisted of liberal policies for urban renewal, modern transportation, clean environment, anti-poverty, healthcare reform, crime control, and educational reform. Johnson’s War on Poverty included legislation creating Head Start, food stamps and Work Study. During Johnson’s term in office the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 23 percent to 12 percent. Congress passed laws establishing Medicare, Medicaid, civil rights, and voting rights. Many of Johnson's Great Society goals were achieved by the end of his term as President.
In the mid-1960s, the U.S. was providing military aid to South Vietnam in support of its fight against North Vietnam. To maintain support for the domestic agenda, Lyndon Johnson's administration misled the public about the extent of that military involvement. Because of the war in Viet Nam, Lyndon Johnson became so unpopular by 1968 that he decided not to run for a second term.
In August, 1965, riots broke out in South Central Los Angeles, in Watts, the first in a series of riots that would shock the nation over four long, hot summers. Each riot stood alone, but each began with police violence, in a segregated neighborhood, where there were hardly any jobs and the affordable housing was dismal. In the late 1960, several influential civil rights advocacy movements formed, including the American Indian Movement, founded in 1968, the Black Power movement, the Chicano movement, and a growing Asian American movement.
Colleges across the country were disrupted by protests, teach-ins, and sporadic violence. In April, 1968, the civil rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated. In June, 1968, while campaigning to be the Democratic nominee in the upcoming election, Robert Kennedy was assassinated. Five months later, former VP Richard M. Nixon was elected President over Johnson's VP Hubert Humphrey.
In 1969, two million people took part in a one day Peace Moratorium, the largest demonstration in U.S. history. Polls in 1970 showed that about a third of Americans believed the U.S. should be sending troops to fight in Vietnam and a third were strongly opposed. When the U.S. Apollo program made two lunar landings in 1969, Americans saw, via television, their astronauts walk on the surface of the moon. The 1970 census counted over 200 million in the U.S., doubling the 100 million recorded in 1920. The détente period of relaxation in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the U.S. began in 1969; it lasted until 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
In 1964, the country and MSU were in the middle of a decade of cultural changes. Among the issues that energized U.S. campuses in 1964 were civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, student’s rights, and environmental protection. By the end of 1964, 5 million women were using “the pill” for birth control. Locally, the Starlite-Drive-In Movie Theater was opened in the mid-1950’s with a 300 car capacity. It was located at 2304 N. 7th Ave and operated for about 35 years. The legendary 1969 Woodstock Music Festival was held in New York. Many Montanans became concerned about the 1960s counter-culture, hippies, and especially aggressive campus protests, although demonstrations on the MSU campus were relatively restrained.
The capability of mainframe computers increased rapidly and MSU statisticians benefited from increased computuational capacity at the campus Computer Center. However, in retrospect, we were using obsolescent technology during the few years between reliance on mechanical calculators and production of amazingly powerful personal computers. The integrated circuits on a chip developed in the 1960s, so vital to microcomputers, were a technology waiting for someone to put them into computers.
Last revised: 2020-06-17