This Week in Amherst History
By MATT KARP, Contributing Writer

A powerful hurricane and a flooding Connecticut River wreaked havoc in Hampshire County 62 years ago this week, postponing the start of classes and sending the entire Pioneer Valley into a state of emergency.

Amherst students aided in rescue and relief efforts throughout the county, as Hadley was evacuated, martial law was declared in Northampton and numerous casualties were reported.

The Amherst campus was far enough from the river to escape serious flood danger, but it was not spared from the 70 mile-per-hour hurricane winds, which caused up to $600,000 in damage on campus, The Amherst Student estimated.

Among the more spectacular incidents of destruction occurred when the roof of Morrow dormitory was "folded back like the top of a sardine can," "the glass sky-light of Alumni Gym [was] crushed" and "innumerable trees thundered down, crushing several cars."

Several Amherst students narrowly escaped injury. One senior, marooned by flood waters in an abandoned house in Hadley, was delivered from the jaws of the storm by a daring police rescue mission. Another senior was knocked unconscious when the wind blew him into a lamp post.


Forty years ago this week, two Amherst students were arrested for participating in civil rights sit-ins in Memphis, Tennessee. John Parsons '63 and William Freeman '62, both white, had each attempted to bring black companions into segregated areas of the southern city.

Parsons, who was working with the NAACP, was arrested while sitting "at the lunch counter of a local five and ten with three Negroes," according to The Student. Freeman, meanwhile, was taken into custody by Memphis police after bringing three black associates into a segregated Baptist church.

The two students were fined $50 apiece (paid for by the NAACP) and were released only after posting a $500 bond.

Parsons was charged with "conspiracy to obstruct private business and commerce," while Freeman was accused of "causing a disturbance inside a religious building."


Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought (LJST) took a major step towards becoming a full-fledged department eight years ago this week. A committee of outside experts acclaimed the existing program-an interdisciplinary program offering 12 courses but no major-as "innovative" and "superior to all other ... undergraduate programs in Legal Studies."

The committee's praise of LJST was expected to provide "a significant boost" to those who had advocated such a departmentalization, and it seemed likely to have an important impact on the following faculty vote to decide the future of the program.

The Student reported, students' response to the idea of expanding LJST was largely positive, and in some cases extremely enthusiastic. As one freshman said, "if they made LJST a department, I'd major in it in a second."

Issue 03, Submitted 2000-09-19 20:29:23
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