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Councilmen Hassle Over Rights Letter

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Councilmen Hassle

Over Rights Letter

(date stamp:)  JUL 21966

By Ron Cordray

Comments by Dr. Albert H.

Wheeler regarding civil rights

in Ann Arbor sparked a lengthy

controversy on the City Coun-

cil floor last night.

Opinions on the comments,

contained in a letter to the

Atomic Energy Commission,

were sharply divided. First

Ward Councilman H. C. Curry

claimed “they are all true,”

while Third Ward Councilman

Paul H. Johnson termed them a

“vicious intimidation and a

poor picture of Ann Arbor.”

Wheeler, a leader in the lo-

cal National Association for the

Advancement of Colored People

and the president of its state con-

ference, had sent a letter to the

AEC giving the NAACP’s “pro-

file" of civil rights in Ann Ar-

bor. He was not present at the


The AEC is considering lo-

cating a $375 million atomic

particle accelerator laboratory

in Northfield Township. Ann Ar-

bor is one of six sites being


Following the lengthy debate

last night, the council backed

Mayor Wendell E. Hulcher’s

proposal to have City Adminis-

trator Guy C. Larcom Jr. draft

a “very clean, factual listing

of civil rights progress in Ann


Larcom’s document, which

will be sent to the AEC, will

be reviewed by councilmen pri-

or to its mailing.

Hulcher today mailed a per-

sonal letter to the AEC to coun-

teract Wheeler’s letter.

He said, “The citizens of Ann

Arbor are to be complimented

for their esponse (sic) and support

of these civil rights actions,”

referring to the establishment

of a Housing Commission and

adoption of the state’s first

fair housing ordinance.

“They have voted to sustain

civil rights progress,” Hulcher

continued. “The city and the

people of Ann Arbor do not de-

serve a ‘halo’ for perfect ac-

tions and attitudes on civil

 rights. But they do deserve a

‘blue ribbon’ for being first in

fair housing legislation and for

supporting a Housing Commis-


Hulcher said in his letter that

he is “confident that the AEC

decision concerning the location

of the accelerator will be made

on facts, and facts alone, con-

cerning all pertinent criteria."

The mayor also commented

that civil rights progress in the

city had been obtained by bi-

partisan action.


Last night's debate was

sparked when Fifth Ward Coun-

cilman LeRoy A. Cappaert

asked that the NAACP letter be

referred to the Human Rela-

tions Commission for investiga-

tion and comment.  It had been

listed on the agenda for no ac-

tion except to receive and place

it on file.


Johnson said he strongly ob-

jected to the referral, stating

the letter was "an insult to Ann

Arbor" and "one of the most

antagonistic attacks on the city"

I've ever seen . . . it should

be filed in file 13."


Johnson said he objected to

such statements as “poor Ne-

gro citizens are harassed, in-

timidated, embarrassed and

treated unjustly, almost daily,”

and that the local Economic Op-

portunity Committee was being

abused by the County Board of

Supervisors. He also said he

objected to statements which

said the Negro was given an

inferior education and unfair

police treatment here.


Cappaert contended that there

were “crucial questions” raised

by the letter which are “ap-

propriate for response.” He

said there were matters of legi-

timate concern in the letter,

pointing specifically to police

practices. “To say there is no

problem is ridiculous and is an

absolute whitewash,” be said.

"I don’t see what grounds he

(Johnson) has to protest this

letter,” Curry said. “All the

statements are true, I know it’s

true. It’s been proven here in

the city the past seven years.

Now he’s trying to deny this.”

Curry also disputed John-

son’s statement that the let-

ter was “one man’s opinion,”

stating the NAACP was “not

alone in putting out this docu-



Second Ward Councilman

James C. Riecker asked Curry

if he agreed with all statements

in the letter, pointing specifical-

ly to police relations. “I most

certainly agree. I’ve had the ex-

perience myself,” Curry said.

Fourth Ward Councilman

John R. Hathaway said the let-

ter contained “many mistate-

ments (sic) and errors that should be

corrected.” He said the city had

an obligation to respond.”

"It is shocking anyone  would

endorse it 100 per cent,” Reick-

er commented. Curry stated

that all the statements are


During the debate, there were

heated exchanges between

Johnson and Curry that had to

be gavelled down by Hulcher.

The intitial debate occurred

at the opening of the meeting,

and at the end the council de-

bated the mayor’s right to au-

thorize Larcom to draft such a

civil rights statement for the

AEC. His “right” to do this

was not decided, but the coun-

cil did endorse the action in

a 7-to-l vote with Cappaert cast-

ing the lone “no” vote.

A motion which would have

permitted the question to be re-

ferred to the Human Relations

Commission failed when it re-

ceived only five of the eight

votes cast, six being needed for