1968 - 50 Years Ago This Year

posted Jan 19, 2018 by Kathy Pinna
Tags: Political, 1960s
For some of us it's rather hard to imagine that it's been exactly 50 years since 1968. 50 years! In 1968, man hadn't yet stepped on the moon, women's rights were again becoming an issue, and computers were still taking up a whole room. Some of you might not have even been alive - so 1968 might seem as though it is "ancient history".

But for those of us who were alive, do you remember what songs were at the top of the charts? The newest "advances" in technology that seem quaint today? Remember what was important culturally and politically (::ahem:: the Vietnam War in the U.S.)?

Do you remember where you were, the person you were and what you were doing towards the end of the 1960's in 1968?

Exactly 50 years ago this year, 1968 was an eventful year that truly impacted and shaped the economy and society we live in today.

The Beatles

Of course the 1960s were all about the Beatles - and 1968 was no exception. "Hey Jude" topped the charts that year. Their hair was longer, their musical tastes were more varied - and the Harrisons and Lennons were following the teachings of the Maharishi. Their movie "Yellow Submarine" was released. John and Cynthia Lennon were divorced. But the musical scene wasn't all about the Beatles. Other big artists/songs that year were On the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding, This Guy's in Love with You by Herb Alpert, and Mrs. Robinson by Simon Garfunkle - featured prominently in Dustin Hoffman's breakout movie, The Graduate.

Martin Luther King, Jr's Assassination

On April 4th 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated on the balcony outside of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee. He was in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers and had given a speech the night before that in retrospect seems to predict his death. James Earl Ray was convicted of the shooting but in this famous photo, everyone with King was pointing to a direction that was different from Ray's presumed location. Riots erupted and continued for several days afterwards. The night of the shooting, Robert Kennedy - who was campaigning for President - spoke in a predominately black neighborhood in Indianapolis, although he was warned that his safety could not be assured. In his speech, which lasted 4 minutes and 57 seconds, he famously said ""For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man." The expected riot did not erupt in Indianapolis.

Robert Kennedy's Assassination

Ten minutes after midnight on June 5th, 1968, almost exactly 2 months after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, brother of assassinated President John Kennedy, was fatally shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. He had just won the California Democratic Primary for President and seemed assured of the Presidential nomination. After delivering his victory speech in one of the ballrooms, he was leaving through the kitchen when he was shot 3 times, once in the head. A hotel worker, Sirhan Sirhan, with a gun in his hand, was immediately tackled, arrested, and later convicted of the shooting. One of Kennedy's nearby friends later said that Kennedy had "a kind of sweet accepting smile on his face, as if he knew it would all end this way" as he lay on the floor after the shooting. RFK was pronounced dead at 1:44 a.m. (PDT) on June 6, nearly 26 hours after the shooting.

The Premier of the TV Show "60 Minutes"

On September 24th, 1968, the tv newsmagazine show "60 minutes" premiered. Created by Don Hewitt, the show was unique because it focused on investigative reporting rather than just the news of the day. The first shows were hosted by Harry Reasoner and Mike Wallace and were televised biweekly. The first show included:
A look inside the headquarters suites of presidential candidates Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey during their respective parties' national conventions that summer;
Commentary by European writers Malcolm Muggeridge, Peter von Zahn, and Luigi Barzini, Jr. on the American electoral system;
A commentary by political columnist Art Buchwald;
An interview with then-Attorney General Ramsey Clark about police brutality;
"A Digression" - a brief, scripted piece in which two silhouetted men (one of them Andy Rooney) discussed the presidential campaign;
An abbreviated version of an Academy Award-winning short film by Saul Bass, Why Man Creates;
A meditation by Wallace and Reasoner on the relation between perception and reality. Wallace said that the show aimed to "reflect reality".

The Pueblo Incident

On January 23rd, 1968, the USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence vessel patrolling the North Korean coast - about 16 miles offshore according to the US - was intercepted by North Korean patrol boats. The North Koreans opened fire and the Pueblo was eventually boarded. The 83 man crew was captured, bound, and blindfolded and transported to Pyongyang, where they were charged with spying. Under threat of torture, the captain and crew confessed.

As you can see in this photo of some of the crew, they used their middle fingers (and sarcastic innuendos) to show that what they were saying was under duress. Once the North Koreans understood the gestures and language of the crew, they were beaten for a week. 82 men survived captivity and on December 23rd, 1968, they were released. In return for the release, the US admitted the ship’s intrusion into North Korean territory, apologized for the action, and pledged to cease any future such action.

The "Heidi" Game

On November 17th, the Oakland Raiders played the visiting New York Jets in an AFC game. A few factors led to the uproar following the game:

- In 1968 there were only 3 main television stations: NBC, ABC, and CBS. So if you wanted to watch your favorite football team, you had to watch them on one of those stations. NBC was carrying this game.

- In the 60's, most professional football games took less than two and a half hours to play and the Jets–Raiders' three-hour time slot was thought to be more than adequate - but the game ran long.

- The Raiders went into the final two minutes behind but scored two touchdowns in the final 1 minute of play to win the game.

- NBC had programmed the showing of a made for tv version of "Heidi" to show at 7p EST that night.

What happened? At 7p Eastern Time, NBC switched from the last 2 minutes of the game to "Heidi" as scheduled, causing east coast Jets fans to miss the most exciting part of the game. The switchboard at NBC was jammed by irate fans protesting the move. After this debacle, the NFL contractually stipulated that all game telecasts would be shown to their conclusion in the markets of the visiting team.

Intel Founded

On July 18th, Intel Corporation was founded in Santa Clara, California - what was later called Silicon Valley. Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove combined forces to create the semiconductor company - Noyce was a key inventor of the integrated circuit, the microchip. So much can be said about Intel and the advances their products allowed in personal computers but suffice it to say that you would not be reading this without the computer that Intel and Silicon Valley brought into your life. In a year of revolutionary changes, the founding of Intel was a real revolution.

President Johnson Announces That He Won't Run

On March 31st, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election. He was eligible to run for another 4 year term because he had assumed office in 1963 after the assassination of JFK. The 22nd Amendment therefore allowed him to run for a second full term. At the time, no Democrat would run against a sitting President. But the Vietnam War was personally taking its toll on Johnson and the Democrats were split into four factions: Johnson, labor unions, and party bosses; students and intellectuals who were against the war; Catholics, Hispanics, and African Americans who backed Robert Kennedy; and segregationist white Southerners who backed George Wallace. Johnson was also worried that he wouldn't live through a second term because of his health (he died in 1973 at age 64). And so, at the end of a 45 minute televised speech, he issued a surprise announcement: "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President." His approval rating went from 36% to 49% the next day.

Miss America Protests

On September 7th, 150 members of New York Radical Women, a feminist group from 1967 - 69, went to Atlantic City, New Jersey to protest against the Miss America Pageant. A precursor of today's #MeToo movement, the group was protesting the pageant as being exploitative of women. The protest was one of the first large demonstrations of Second Wave Feminism, which fought for issues such as sexuality, family, the workplace, reproductive rights, de facto inequalities, and official legal inequalities. First Wave Feminism fought earlier in the century for voting rights and gender equality. This event began to focus the media on Women's Liberation.

Nixon and Agnew Nominated

On August 5th through 8th, the Republican National Convention took place in Miami Beach, Florida. The convention nominated Richard M. Nixon for U.S. President and Spiro Agnew for Vice President. The ticket won the Presidential election in 1968 and they were re-elected in 1972. However, Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973 due to a guilty plea involving illegal kickbacks that he received while he was Governor of Maryland and Richard Nixon was forced to resign in 1974 in order to avoid impeachment and removal by Congress because of Watergate.

Laugh-In Premieres

On January 22nd, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In debuted on NBC and aired for 140 episodes. The show featured an ensemble cast and was characterized by short, quick skits based on political and sexual innuendo. Regulars included - in addition to Dan Rowan and Dick Martin - Gary Owens, Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Richard Pryor, Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Jo Anne Worley, Henry Gibson, Alan Sues, Lily Tomlin, Teresa Graves, Larry Hovis, Chelsea Brown, Sarah Kennedy, Jeremy Lloyd, Dave Madden, Pigmeat Markham, Pamela Rodgers, Jud Strunk, Richard Dawson, Moosie Drier, Barbara Sharma, and Johnny Brown. Even President Richard Nixon had an appearance on the show.

The Photo That Shocked the World

On February 1st, Viet Cong officer Nguyễn Văn Lém was executed by Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, a South Vietnamese National Police Chief, on a Saigon street. American photographer and photojournalist Eddie Adams, who was covering the Vietnam war, witnessed and recorded the event as it happened. The photo made headlines around the world, eventually winning the 1969 Pulitzer Prize. This one photo did the most to turn U.S. public opinion against the war. It was controversial at the time because of its brutal nature and it is still disturbing.

The Zodiac Killer

On December 20th, the Zodiac Killer is believed to have shot Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday on Lake Herman Road in Benicia California (near San Francisco). A serial killer, his identity is still unknown. His name derived from his letters to the local press in which he called himself "the Zodiac killer". His victims include 5 confirmed dead, 2 injured, and possibly 20–28 total dead (he claimed to have killed 37) throughout the Bay Area. In one of his letters, he said: "I like killing people because it is so much fun it is more fun than killing wild game in the forrest because man is the most dangeroue anamal of all to kill something gives me the most thrilling experence it is even better than getting your rocks off with a girl the best part of it is thae when I die I will be reborn in paradice and thei have killed will become my slaves I will not give you my name because you will try to sloi down or atop my collectiog of slaves for my afterlife."

Have photos that you'd like to see included? Share your photos or see a video of a 1962 fashion show on the next page.
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