Oral History Projects Radio — 06 May 2010
ROTC building burning at UK

Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Kentucky

On May 5, 1970, students of the University of Kentucky reacted to the shootings that occurred the day before at Kent State University.  Student protests occurred around the University of Kentucky throughout the day including a protest of the UK Board of Trustees meeting on the 18th floor of Patterson Office Towers. The protests escalated into the evening, and city and state police were called to campus to assist campus police in full riot gear.  After a peaceful memorial march, the protest culminated outside the Buell Armory.  Angry students made speeches, a brick was thrown through a window of the Buell Armory.  At some point during this gathering, a wooden annex to the Air Force ROTC building on the other side of the student center became engulfed in flames–allegedly due to arson.

Listen to latest episode of Saving Stories on WUKY: Kent State Repercussions Felt On UK Campus

On this episode of Saving Stories on WUKY, Alan Lytle and Nunn Center Director Doug Boyd explore oral histories with University of Kentucky student Sue Anne Salmon who was  arrested and incarcerated that night for allegedly burning down the building (and was later released due to insufficient evidence), Joseph Burch the director of campus security at the University of Kentucky, as well as with Louie Nunn who was Governor at the time of the protests and called out the National Guard the next day.

Although several theories are circulated in the oral histories, there was never any definitive proof revealing responsibility for the burning of the ROTC annex at UK.

University of Kentucky’s University Archives and Records Program has extensive records pertaining to this protest, including photographic documentation of the protests that day as well as recordings of the hearings that were held in the aftermath.   Full interviews and a photo/oral history-based digital exhibit are expected to go online very soon so stay tuned!


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(2) Readers Comments

  1. I am the eldest sister of Sue Anne Salmon, who was falsely arrested and accused of burning the ROTC building as noted above.She became an environmental advocate recognized for her work in opposing toxic land fills and mountain top removal. Sadly, Sue Anne died of ovarian cancer January 13, 2010. In sorting through her papers, which have been donated to the Filson Society, I recently came across a letter she had written to me and never mailed. It details the precise events of May 5, 1970 and the following days on the UK campus from her perspective. If you are interested, I can read it for the oral history project before sending the letter to the Filson Society. My siblings and I remain distressed that her innocent name has never been fully cleared and the actual perpetrators of the alleged arson have not been brought to justice.

  2. Lucy, thank you so much for your note. Sue Anne’s interview is such an important part of our collection and I am so glad you have archived her papers.

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