Guide to the Records of the Citizens for 65

Collection Title: Records of the Citizens for 65
Dates: 1953-2003
Identification: 55/44
Creator: Citizens for 65
Extent: 6 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: The records detail many of the issues and events associated with Gregory Coffin’s superintendency of Evanston’s Community Consolidated School District 65 and the contentious 1970 School Board election that determined his tenure.
Acquisition Information: Alice Kreiman, a principal member of Citizens for 65, donated these materials to the University Archives on November 22, 2004 (Accession #04-162).
Processing Information: Kevin B. Leonard; September 9, 2005.
Separated Materials: Gregory C. Coffin’s desk decoration, a carved wooden turtle on a pedestal bearing the statement, “A turtle only moves ahead by sticking his neck out!” Also separated were four Citizens for 65 campaign buttons and five campaign bumper stickers. The desk decoration and campaign buttons have been added to the University Archives’ collection of artifacts. The bumper stickers have been placed with oversize holdings, Map Case: Drawer A.
Conditions Governing Access: None.
Repository: Northwestern University Archives
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/archives
Email: archives@northwestern.edu
Phone: 847-491-3354

Biographical/Historical Information

Originally known as Citizens for Coffin and District 65, Citizens for 65 was an Evanston and Skokie, Illinois, community organization which formed to support Gregory C. Coffin, superintendent of Community Consolidated Schools District 65, and particularly his policies related to the integration of Evanston elementary schools. (District 65 is contiguous with Evanston but also overlaps a portion of the political boundaries of Skokie, Illinois.) Coffin, appointed superintendent of District 65 in 1966, had fallen out of favor with a majority of the elected seven-member Board of the school district. At a contentious School Board meeting of June 24, 1969, the Board majority chose not to renew Coffin’s contract as superintendent, effectively terminating his position as of June, 1970. Public outcry forced the Board to back away from this position, deferring any decision concerning Coffin’s leadership of the district to a future Board as constituted by the results of the next election. With three Board members choosing not to seek reelection and because of the political alignment of the remaining four members, the upcoming election would determine whether or not the Board would hold its anti-Coffin majority. The School Board election of April 11, 1970, effectively became a referendum on Coffin’s tenure.

District 65 had committed to the desegregation of its schools formally in 1964 and hired Coffin, then Superintendent of Schools in Darien, Connecticut, in 1966 to implement a plan to meet this goal. Among his accomplishments at Darien, at that time an all-white district, was the implementation of a program to bring non-white students into Darien classrooms, to hire non-white personnel, and to develop curricular plans and materials introducing students to racial and civil rights issues. Quoted in the December, 1965 issue of School Management, Coffin stated: “There are many all-white districts in the nation. They don’t have to get involved in civil rights at all but, for the sake of their children, they should. After all, with the tremendous mobility of all our people, chances are very good that today’s students in all-white communities will be living, working and traveling in mixed communities a good part of their lives. As teachers, we had better prepare them for that experience right now.” Public contention over Coffin’s superintendency soon centered on the chosen path of integration but also on personality conflicts and bureaucratic infighting between the superintendent and some members of the District 65 School Board. Among both supporters and detractors Coffin was known for a sometimes abrasive, impolitic demeanor.

In August, 1969, the School Board published a report explaining the intent of its majority (Mrs. Robert G. Seyl, John Thomas Buck, Franklin C. Gagen, and Mrs. Nathan Zimmerman) to not renew Coffin in his post. Stated problems included Coffin’s concept of the “Superintendent-Administration-Board” relationship, a lack of trust between Coffin and the Board, and Coffin’s brusque personality. A number of specific incidents and alleged administrative failures attending his tenure supplemented these more general concerns. The minority of the Board supporting Coffin (Laurence J. Fitzsimons, Dr. Allwyn H. Gatlin, and Dr. Lawrence G. Lavengood) cited his professional stewardship of the district and asserted his ability to work usefully with the Board. Lurking behind the administrative problems and frequently admitted intractability, professional and personal failings enumerated by the Board majority, was the matter of race. The great majority of Evanston’s black population supported Coffin in his work to construct an integrated rather than merely desegregated school system. Reprising his work in Darien, Coffin endeavored to hire minority teachers and administrators, used busing to move students from the essentially all-black Foster School to white schools, implemented staff training programs and instituted reforms to purge the curriculum of racial bias. Coffin and his supporters issued their own report in February, 1970, to counter the Board’s majority, emphasizing successes in integrating the schools and marshalling a number of arguments to assert that the children of District 65 were “receiving a good education.” Despite this report and the statements of the Board minority, many of Evanston’s white residents remained unconvinced of Coffin’s abilities to lead the district.

Evanston’s polarization over Coffin received considerable attention in the local and metropolitan press and garnered as well some national attention. Supporters viewed the attempt to dump Coffin as an assault on full-scale integration of the schools. Many of Coffin’s critics asserted their own commitment to integration and discounted supporters’ charges of racial insensitivity and sometimes of outright racism. An issue tangential to the dispute involved Evanston’s District 65 Caucus, an organization which even included some non-residents of the district and whose function was the selection of candidates for election to the School Board. At the time of the Coffin controversy the caucus system had come under attack as rigid, elitist, and generally supportive of the interests of the establishment white community.

Both camps mobilized for the election which would decide the major issue. Coffin opponents coalesced under the banner of the Community Education Committee and fielded a slate of three candidates for election to the School Board: Martha K. Baumberger, Norma Eason, and Sumner G. Rahr. Citizens for 65 formed its own slate of candidates, Bennett Johnson, Robert Marks, and Betty A. Papangelis, in effort to secure control of the Board, to retain Coffin, and to erode support for the privileged status the caucus system.

The opposing slates and their backers campaigned through late winter and early spring, 1970. In an election marked by an unprecedented voter turnout, the candidates supported by the Community Education Committee won a narrow victory. The anti-Coffin majority of the School Board was reaffirmed and enlarged by one more vote to stand at 5 to 2. The newly constituted School Board removed Coffin from his job as superintendent on April 17 and retained him in a reduced capacity as educational consultant until June 30 when his contract with District 65 expired.

In many ways, including the dissemination of skills associated with campaigning, electioneering, and public relations along with the formation of new, notably multiracial coalitions to achieve common goals, the School Board election of 1970 and the work of Citizens for 65 began a transformation of Evanston politics. While Citizens for 65 and pro-Coffin forces lost the April election, many individuals associated with the campaign later came to play significant roles in Evanston political and community affairs.

Scope and Content

The records of Citizens for 65 fill six boxes and span the period 1953-2003 with the bulk of the material dating from 1968 through 1970.

The records detail many of the issues and events associated with Gregory Coffin’s superintendency of Evanston’s Community Consolidated School District 65 and the contentious 1970 School Board election that determined his tenure. These include race relations in general, the desegregation and integration of Evanston schools, and governance of local institutions. At the municipal level the records document the conflict between traditionalists and an expanding base of political liberals over control of social and educational initiatives and organizations.

Forming the largest and most richly detailed portions of the series are:

• newspaper clippings covering Evanston educational, racial and political issues;

• correspondence, especially letters written to the School District 65 Board of Education in support of or in opposition to Gregory Coffin and his program for integrating Evanston schools;

• District 65 in-service training manuals written to prepare the faculty, staff and administrators of Evanston schools for school integration and ancillary matters;

• the contents of a Citizens for 65 office manual relating to the 1970 School Board election and providing key information on campaign strategy and tactics; and

• photographs of individuals central to the Citizens for 65 organization including its organizers, its campaign volunteers, and its slate of candidates standing for election to the School Board.

Other files within the series largely pertain to the 1970 School Board election campaign and provide significant detail on the work of Citizens for 65 leaders in their efforts to form alliances with Evanston neighborhood, social, religious and community organizations.

Arrangement of Materials

The records are organized into folders by format (e.g., clippings, correspondence, etc.) or topic. Files are arranged thereafter in alphabetical order by keyword. With the exception of selected files of correspondence, items within folders are arranged chronologically. Letters written to the Board of Education (District 65) in opposition to or in support of Gregory Coffin are filed alphabetically by surname of correspondent.

Subjects

Corporate Name

Citizens for 65

Evanston School District 65--Elections

Geographical Name

Evanston (Ill.)--Race relations--20th century

Subjects

School integration--Illinois--Evanston


Container List / Contents

  • Clippings
    • Clippings, 1968Box 1, Folder 8
    • Clippings, February-June, 1969Box 1, Folder 9
    • Clippings, July 2-17, 1969Box 1, Folder 10
    • Clippings, July 18-31, 1969Box 1, Folder 11
    • Clippings, August, 1969Box 1, Folder 12
    • Clippings, September, 1969Box 1, Folder 13
    • Clippings, October, 1969Box 1, Folder 14
    • Clippings, November, 1969Box 1, Folder 15
    • Clippings, December, 1969Box 1, Folder 16
    • Clippings, January, 1970Box 2, Folder 1
    • Clippings, February, 1970Box 2, Folder 2
    • Clippings, March, 1970Box 2, Folder 3
    • Clippings, April, 1970Box 2, Folder 4
    • Clippings, May, 1970Box 2, Folder 5
    • Clippings, 2003Box 2, Folder 6
    • Clippings, undatedBox 2, Folder 7
  • Correspondence
    • Citizens for 65, 1969-1970Box 2, Folder 12
    • General Correspondence and Related Material, 1969-1979, n.d.Box 2, Folder 13
    • Hate Mail, 1969Box 2, Folder 14
    • Letters to the Board of Education (District 65) in Opposition to Gregory C. Coffin,, 1969Box 2, Folder 15
    • Letters to the Board of Education (District 65) in Opposition to School Desegregation Plan, 1966Box 2, Folder 16
    • Letters to the Board of Education (District 65) in Support of Gregory C. Coffin: Surnames A-F, 1969Box 3, Folder 1
    • Letters to the Board of Education (District 65) in Support of Gregory C. Coffin: Surnames G-K, 1969Box 3, Folder 2
    • Letters to the Board of Education (District 65) in Support of Gregory C. Coffin: Surnames L-M, 1969Box 3, Folder 3
    • Letters to the Board of Education (District 65) in Support of Gregory C. Coffin: Surnames N-S, 1969Box 3, Folder 4
    • Letters to the Board of Education (District 65) in Support of Gregory C. Coffin: Surnames T-Z, 1969Box 3, Folder 5
    • Letters to the Board of Education (District 65) in Support of School Desegregation Plan but Opposing Attendance Area Changes, 1966Box 3, Folder 6
  • Office Manual
    • Office Manual: Black Caucus, 1969-1970Box 5, Folder 9
    • Office Manual: Board of Education, 1969-1970Box 5, Folder 10
    • Office Manual: Board of Education: Report to the Board of Education on the Superintendency of Dr. Gregory C. Coffin, 1969Box 5, Folder 11
    • Office Manual: Calendar, 1970Box 5, Folder 12
    • Office Manual: Candidates, 1970Box 5, Folder 13
    • Office Manual: Caucus, 1968-1970Box 5, Folder 14
    • Office Manual: Citizens Advisory Commission on Integration, 1969Box 5, Folder 15
    • Office Manual: Community Education Committee, 1969-1970Box 5, Folder 16
    • Office Manual: District 65, 1969Box 5, Folder 17
    • Office Manual: Election, 1970Box 5, Folder 18
    • Office Manual: Fact Sheets / Brochure, ca. 1969-1970Box 5, Folder 19
    • Office Manual: Human Relations Commission: Evanston Caucus Investigation Board, 1969Box 5, Folder 20
    • Office Manual: Issues, 1970Box 5, Folder 21
    • Office Manual: Manuals (Duties and Instructions for Election Workers), ca. 1970Box 5, Folder 22
    • Office Manual: Public Relations, 1969-1970Box 5, Folder 23
    • Office Manual: Speeches, 1969Box 6, Folder 1
  • Photographs
    • Photographs: Proof Sheets (B.F. Stein Photography), ca. 1969-1970Box 6, Folder 8
    • Photographs: Numbers 1-16 (Hutcherson Photographic Studio), ca. 1969-1970Box 6, Folder 9
    • Photographs: Numbers 17-33 [#23 Missing] (Hutcherson Photographic Studio), ca. 1969-1970Box 6, Folder 10
    • Photographs: Numbers 34-49 (Hutcherson Photographic Studio), ca. 1969-1970Box 6, Folder 11
    • Photographs: Numbers 50-66 (Hutcherson Photographic Studio), ca. 1969-1970Box 6, Folder 12
    • Photographs: Numbers 2:1-2:15, ca. 1969-1970Box 6, Folder 13
    • Photographs: Numbers 2:16-2:46, ca. 1969-1970Box 6, Folder 14
  • Axtel, Keith, Associates: Survey FormBox 1, Folder 1
  • Block Worker’s Manual; Canvassing and Electoral Information, ca1969-70Box 1, Folder 2
  • Campaign and Election Materials, ca1969-70Box 1, Folder 3
  • Candidate Recommendations, 1969-70Box 1, Folder 4
  • Cartops, ca. 1970Box 1, Folder 5
  • Citizens Newsletter, 1970Box 1, Folder 6
  • City of Evanston: Human Relations Commission, 1968-70Box 1, Folder 7
  • Coalition for Dignity in Education, 1978-1979Box 2, Folder 8
  • Coffin, Gregory C.: Biographical Material, 1963-2002Box 2, Folder 9
  • Community Education Committee, 1969-1970, n.d.Box 2, Folder 10
  • Community Organizations,, 1969-1970, n.d.Box 2, Folder 11
  • Council of Neighborhood Groups: You and Your Neighborhood, n.d.Box 3, Folder 7
  • District 65 Board of Education, 1965, 1968-1970, 1975Box 3, Folder 8
  • District 65 Board of Education: Citizens’ Advisory Commission On Integration, 1966Box 3, Folder 9
  • District 65: In-Service Training Program: Black Power and Its Effect on Racial Interaction, ca. 1968Box 3, Folder 10
  • District 65: In-Service Training Program: Common Prejudices of Negroes and Whites, ca. 1968Box 3, Folder 11
  • District 65: In-Service Training Program: Discipline Standards in Integrated Schools, ca. 1968Box 3, Folder 12
  • District 65: In-Service Training Program: Grouping Children in Integrated Schools, ca. 1968Box 4, Folder 1
  • District 65: In-Service Training Program: Interpersonal Relations Among Students, ca. 1968Box 4, Folder 2
  • District 65: In-Service Training Program: Media and Prejudice, ca. 1968Box 4, Folder 3
  • District 65: In-Service Training Program: Sensitivity to Interpersonal Relationships, ca. 1968Box 4, Folder 4
  • District 65: In-Service Training Program: Who’s the Goat, ca. 1968Box 4, Folder 5
  • District 65: Laboratory School, 1969, n.d.Box 4, Folder 6
  • District 65: The Report of the Board of Education on the Superintendency of Dr. Gregory C. Coffin, 1969Box 4, Folder 7
  • District 65: School Outlook, 1966, 1969Box 4, Folder 8
  • District 65 Caucus (General Caucus of Community Consolidated School District 65): General, 1965, 1967-1970, n.d.Box 4, Folder 9
  • District 65 Caucus (General Caucus of Community Consolidated School District 65): Minutes, 1953-1969Box 4, Folder 10
  • District 65 Caucus (General Caucus of Community Consolidated School District 65): Rosters of Caucus Members and Constituent Organizations, 1955-1968, n.d.Box 4, Folder 11
  • Eddis, Charles W.: “Of Turtles and Establishments: The Great Evanston School Board Controversy,” Sermon, The Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1970Box 4, Folder 12
  • Election Literature, ca. 1970Box 4, Folder 13
  • Ericsson, William G.: Breakfast, 1970Box 4, Folder 14
  • The Evanston Coalition: The Spokesman, 1970Box 4, Folder 15
  • Evanston Council of PTAs, 1966, 1970Box 4, Folder 16
  • Evanston Ecumenical Action Team: Task Force Tachonometer, 1969-1970Box 4, Folder 17
  • Evanston Meeting of Friends, 1969[?]Box 4, Folder 18
  • Evanston Peace and Freedom Party, ca. 1969Box 4, Folder 19
  • Evanston Review, 1969-1970Box 4, Folder 20
  • Executive Committee: Administrative Records, ca. 1969-1970Box 5, Folder 1
  • Financial, 1969Box 5, Folder 2
  • Gamow, Leo, 1969Box 5, Folder 3
  • Issues Facing School District, Summaries of, ca. 1969Box 5, Folder 4
  • Joint Statements: District 65 and Gregory C. Coffin, Superintendent, 1969Box 5, Folder 5
  • Kreiman, Alice: Speech: League of Women Voters Community Dinner, 2000Box 5, Folder 6
  • Lawson, Donald, 1969-1970Box 5, Folder 7
  • National Municipal League, 1958-1968Box 5, Folder 8
  • Opposition to Integration Plans, ca. 1969Box 6, Folder 2
  • Organization and Goals, ca. 1969Box 6, Folder 3
  • Papangelis, Betty, 1969-1970Box 6, Folder 4
  • Petition to Quaife Ward, Alderman, Ward 4, 1969Box 6, Folder 5
  • Petition to Retain Gregory C. Coffin, ca. 1969Box 6, Folder 6
  • Petitions to the Board of Education (District 65) in Support of Gregory C. Coffin, 1969Box 6, Folder 7
  • Press Releases, 1969-1970Box 6, Folder 15
  • Rights and Responsibilities, Committee on, 1968-1970Box 6, Folder 16
  • Statements from School Superintendents and Representatives of National Organizations, 1969Box 6, Folder 17
  • Statements to the District 65 Board of Education, 1969-1970Box 6, Folder 18
  • Steering Committee, Citizens for Coffin and District 65, 1969, n.d.Box 6, Folder 19
  • Steering Committee, Citizens for Coffin and District 65: Minutes, July-August, 1969Box 6, Folder 20
  • Steering Committee, Citizens for Coffin and District 65: Minutes, September 1969-January, 1970Box 6, Folder 21
  • The Superintendency of Gregory C. Coffin in School District 65, Evanston, Illinois, 1970Box 6, Folder 22
  • Supporters, Roster of, ca. 1969Box 6, Folder 23
  • Turtle Talk, Volume 1, Numbers 1-4, 1970Box 6, Folder 24
  • United Black Employees of School District 65: An Analysis of the Report to the Board of Education on the Superintendency of Dr. Gregory C. Coffin, 1970Box 6, Folder 25
  • Voting Patterns, ca. 1960-1969Box 6, Folder 26
  • Wilson, Jeremy, “Evanston School Integration Controversy,” Parts I and II, Evanston Rountable, 2003Box 6, Folder 27
  • WIND Radio Editorials, 1969Box 6, Folder 28