50 years ago UT's students began protesting

Chandler Davidson: Rice Prof Looking For His Colleagues From Austin's Civil Rights Era

Ah, the early '60s in Austin -- for many people it meant beer, maybe some drugs, and Darrel Royal guiding the Longhorns.

For Chandler Davidson and his colleagues it meant protesting to integrate UT's Guadalupe Drag, the iconic strip outside the campus.

It wasn't exactly as violent as the "Deep South," but it wasn't breezy either for their group, the Students for Direct Action (SDA). Davidson recalls "someone...[setting] off a small bomb," while the SDA was having a meeting. The two UT students who were later charged with the bombing claimed they were just looking to scare the group, not kill them. (Which is nice, we guess.)

The 50th anniversary of the founding of the group is approaching, and Davidson is looking for anyone who participated in the fight way back when.

That fight did get some publicity -- a telegram, for one thing, from Democratic matriarch and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who said she"admired so much the stand which the students at The University of Texas have taken."

Davidson, a professor at Rice and former SDA president, wants to find his former colleagues. This time not to protest along The Drag, but to hold their big 50th-anniversary celebration on December 2nd in Austin. He is hoping to track down as many former members as he can.

One he's remained in contact with is Sandra Cason, better known as Cassie Hayden, who he remembers as having "real leadership skills, being extraordinarily beautiful and becoming most famous at all the stand-ins."

But Davidson also spoke very highly and with great respect for another former colleague of his. Gwen Jordan, an African American woman who was elected to the UT student government, one of the positive results of their fervent protests:

"I'm still trying to get into contact with [other] former stand-in students. A great example of a person who should show up to this event is Gwen Jordan, who was very passionate and had great leadership qualities," he says.

Get in touch with Davidson here.

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