”The San Marcos 10: An Antiwar Protest in Texas” by E.R. Bills, The History Press, Charleston, South Carolina, 2019

Fifty years ago, at sleepy Southwest Texas State University (SWTSU, now Texas State University), many of societies’ complex conflicts aligned in what became known as the San Marcos 10. The story was mostly forgotten — until now.

The author of historical shameful episodes in Texas, E.R. Bills, takes the reader on another journey in this book. Free speech, civil rights, justice, poverty, dress codes, the Vietnam War and abuse of power are masterly explored at a national level through the detail of experiences taking place in San Marcos.

One individual copied their dissertation, word for word. Another “borrowed” more than $100,000 of public funds and almost caused a riot. Both profited and were held up as American heroes.

Ten others paid the price for sitting on a lawn and not walking off in three minutes. Those who spoke out in their support were fired. Two million other Americans across the country protested too.

Beginning with the actions of Nov. 13, 1969, the book introduces each of the 10 students. Cast by conservatives as hippies and communists, the anti-war students couldn’t have been more different.

They included a “Who’s Who” math student, two veterans, one a baseball player, three other mid-20s males, a 19-year-old male and three women. They respected their friends who served in the Army.

An overhead photo shows the 10 sitting surrounded by a police rope and 200 “jocks” and “cowboys” (called in by SWTSU administrators). Dean Floyd Martine read a statement that the 10 had three minutes to leave or be suspended immediately. They didn’t leave. The crowd shouted “Let’s string ‘um up!”

After a long legal battle, with SWTSU duplicity, the Supreme Court didn’t hear the appeal from the Fifth Circuit. Each student’s transcript has the statement: “THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES HAS RULED IN FAVOR OF SWTSU….THEREFORE, CREDIT FOR THE….SCHOOL YEAR HAS BEEN DENIED.”

No refunds.

Lack of freedom of speech and loss of jobs extended to those who questioned SWTSU’s President James McCrocklin’s dissertation plagiarism. He was finally forced to resign and took up an extremely lucrative real estate business.

Later, Dean Martine was dismissed. He personally used SWTSU funds for years. New president, Lee Smith, didn’t prosecute, which allowed Martine to years later sue SWTSU for past wages, walking off with $100,000.

A boycott of a public school dress code targeting Hispanic students further divided the town. One involved faculty member was sacked. As with most of fired SWTSU faculty, he ended up at a respected major university.

Politicians, including Galveston’s “Babe” Schwartz, reshaped San Marcos “good ole boy” atmosphere.

Chapters begin with fitting quotes. Documentation comes from the “internet” of the day, the student paper and the conservative and liberal dailies.

Today, Texas State University boasts a “global impact, research and academics.” It has succeeded.

The Postscript explains, “The country as a whole has not.”

In 1970, then SWTSU President Jones apologized to former U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson for the student protests. LBJ replied, “They were right.”

Alvin Sallee lives in Galveston and occasionally writes book reviews.

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(3) comments

alvin sallee

In 1974 I joined the faculty at SWTSU with an office in Flowers Hall. Over the two years I taught there I knew many of the actors listed in E.R. Bills' book, including Bob Barton, the newspaper editor. I appeared and held the same beliefs as many of the male faculty who were fired, and I received merit raises. During my time in San Marcos, I felt and saw the political forces at work. After two years, I left to chair the academic program at New Mexico State University, a research one institution. Over the years I was invited back to SWTSU and then Texas State Univ, as a consultant. I am amazed at the growth and advancement TSU has made since the 1970's. In fact several members of my family hold graduate level degrees from TSU.

Bailey Jones

I'll have to read this. I'm glad these events were captured in print. 50 years from now people will be looking back on the centennial of the Vietnam War and wondering who did what and why, and this will be a valuable resource.

alvin sallee

E. R. Bills, the author will be at the Bookshop at 23rd and Market today from 2-4pm

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