1968 was the year that ‘shattered America’

Published 10:15 pm Saturday, May 19, 2018

Editor’s note: This is the first part in a series highlighting the year 1968 in Vicksburg and how the town has changed over the last 50 years.

It was a period that changed American life forever.

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The Smithsonian Magazine’s online magazine “Smithsonianmag.com,” called 1968 “the year that shattered America.

“Movements that had been building along the primary fault lines of the 1960s — the Vietnam War, the Cold War, civil rights, human rights, human culture — exploded with force,” according to the online publication. “The aftershocks registered both in America and abroad for decades.”

Although it had sent military advisors to South Vietnam in the 1950s, by 1968, American troops had been in full combat against North Vietnamese troops and Viet Cong guerilla for three years.

The Tet offensive in late January 1968 shattered many Americans’ faith in the military and the government when North Vietnamese troops and the Viet Cong launched multiple attacks across the country, and guerillas briefly occupied part of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.

In Vicksburg, 1968 began with the swearing in of Warren County officials, and artist Andrew Bucci’s design of a magnolia was selected for the Mississippi Commemorative stamp.

War news dominated The Vicksburg Evening Post headlines, and Maj. Gen. Robert R. Pliger told chamber of commerce members that the war in Vietnam was being won.

Other local items included:

• Plans were announced for a new country club, Warren Hills Country Club, to be built off Fisher Ferry Road. Plans were also revealed for a new hospital to be built on land between Confederate Avenue and the Interstate 20 bypass.

• Work began to four-lane U.S. 61 South from the Sportsman’s Inn to Yokena.

• Mayor John Holland resigned his seat to take a job with Mississippi Power & Light, now known as Entergy. Holland’s resignation resulted in a special election won by former police chief Murray Sills, who defeated Alderman Travis Vance in a runoff.

• A windstorm accompanying a low pressure system damaged homes in the area in April.

• The price of a 1968 Pontiac Bonneville at Lamar T. Loe Motor Company Inc., was $4,600.

• A rump roast at Jitney Jungle was 89 cents per pound, pork chops at Piggly Wiggly were 59 cents a pound and a 5-pound bag sugar at Humpty Dumpty was 49 cents.

• Work was underway on what would become Warrenton Elementary School.

• The Board of Mayor and Aldermen hired the Jackson firm of High and Mitchell to design a new wastewater treatment plant estimated to cost $3 million ($21.5 million in 2018).

• A July raid by local, state and federal authorities broke up a major illegal still in Warren County. Officers seized 142 gallons of whiskey, 240 barrels of mash and a “cooker” capable of making more than 1,000 gallons of illegal whiskey.

• Mary Mill, Miss University of Southern Mississippi, was crowned Miss Mississippi in 1968.

In other events during 1968:

• The surveillance ship USS Pueblo was captured by North Korea after it drifted into North Korean waters. One man was killed, and the other 82 men in the crew were held captive for 11 months.

• The basketball “Game of the Century” between UCLA and the University of Houston was played in primetime at the Houston Astrodome. Houston won, 71-69.

• Affected by the pressures of the Vietnam War, anti-war protests and Walter Cronkite’s editorial that it was time for the U.S. to get out of Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson announced in January he would not seek re-election.

Sen. Bobby Kennedy, brother of the slain president, announced his candidacy for president. He would later be assassinated in June by Jordanian Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles, California.

• The Rev. Martin Luther King, who went to Memphis, Tennessee to help striking garbage workers, was killed April 4, sparking riots in many cities.

• Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act prohibiting discrimination in housing.

• Richard Nixon received the Republican nomination for president.

• Hubert Humphrey received the Democratic nomination for president in Chicago during a convention marred by battles in the streets between police and anti-war protestors.

• Nixon defeated Humphrey in the November presidential election.

• In December, Apollo 8 became the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon and safely return to earth.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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