Q&A: Forming the Wall
October 3, 2011
Tony '71 and Cathy Crist Marcson '73
Tony Marcson ’71 was
one of several students who formed a human wall to protect Komozi Woodard ’71
and several other black students from Carlisle police during the April 1969
incident described in “Origins of Organizing.” A retired director of a
children’s mental-health agency in Ohio, Marcson now splits his time
between Pennsylvania and and Yellowstone National Park where he manages a
store in the interior of the park. Recently, he discussed his memories of that night
with Dickinson Magazine contributing
writer Matt Getty.
What do you remember about that night?
been some feelings that black people were being mistreated in the town.And we’d gone to a rally earlier in
the day. Then that night a bunch of students went to the police station to
protest. I can’t recall exactly, but there was some sort of meeting going on
inside. We did the usual—holding hands and chanting—and then the rally kind of
broke up and people went away. But then after we got back, we were sitting on
the front stoop of what used to be called the Pizza House. I think there’s a
library there now …
Yes, Bosler Library, but it used to be a pizza restaurant?
Yes, that’s right.
So we were there and we heard a crash of glass breaking. We went out to the
street to see what it was, and we saw a crowd of students with police coming at
them. Ken [Komozi Woodard ’71] was there and at least one other black student. The
police seemed to be hitting them with billy clubs, and dogs were barking and
trying to bite them. So we got between them and the police. Ken [Komozi] later
told me we’d formed a human wall. Then I think I said, “Let’s run! Run for the
president’s house.” And we ran. We were scared.
Did you know that President [Howard “Bud”] Rubendall [’31] was going to take
No, I remember
pounding on his door and just thinking, “I hope he opens it,” and luckily he
did. We went inside, and Rubendall had us sit down in the living room. I think I
stayed for a brief time with some others. Ken and the other student stayed
longer. I think one of them was injured.
When you first went down to the street and saw the police and the students, what
were you thinking?
Before we ran over
to them, I remember saying to the police, “We got you now! We got you now!” I
wanted them to know that we’d caught them being abusive. Now we had witnesses
that they were being abusive. The next day I think Wayne Sunday [’69] put
together a long letter in the Dickinsonian.
We thought big stuff would come out of this, but nothing did. I remember being
disappointed that it didn’t go further than that.
Did you ever have a chance to talk to Komozi about this incident?
I did. At a
reunion—it must have been five years ago. That really helped revive the memory
I know it made an impression on him. He’d said that it gave him a feeling that
he wasn’t alone because these students who didn’t have to help him came to his
aid, and you were risking your own safety. Were you worried about your safety?
I was scared to death.
But I also thought that—and maybe it’s because of how I was brought up as white
kid, but I thought that I wouldn’t get hurt. And I love what you said, about
what Ken [Komozi] said—that he wasn’t alone out there. Him calling it a “human
wall” and feeling that he wasn’t alone … that really touches my heart. It makes
me feel really good because we never talked about it until that reunion. And I always
viewed Ken [Komozi] as a very strong leader, but we never talked. I admired
him, but it’s kind of a funny thing. Back then we didn’t talk, but now we can.
To learn more about Komozi Woodard's leadership at Dickinson, read "Origins of Organizing."