”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.”
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.”