88. Governor Shapiro Calls Out the National Guard (1968)

Background: For many, the turbulent 1960s can be best exemplified by the 1968 Democratic National Convention, held in Chicago from August 26 to August 29, 1968. Thousands of demonstrators converged in Chicago during the convention to protest the Vietnam War. Clashes between protestors and law enforcement officials turned violent and were seen by millions on television. It was a turbulent situation in a year that had already seen much violence. Along with the war, the year endured the assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, plus violent civil rights and anti-war protests that resulted in riots in more than 100 cities. In April, Governor Otto Kerner called out the National Guard to assist Chicago, Evergreen Park, and Joliet with crowd control following the rioting after King's assassination.

The Document: In this August 20, 1968 document, Governor Samuel Shapiro (who succeeded Kerner) orders the Illinois Adjutant General to send troops to Chicago to assist the city in maintaining law and order during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Shapiro writes that he had "received a request from the Honorable Richard J. Daley, Mayor of the City of Chicago, that this threatened situation in Chicago may become beyond the control of the civil authorities." In all, approximately 5,600 Illinois National Guardsmen were sent to Chicago to protect the convention site at the International Amphitheater; downtown hotels where candidates, delegates and the press stayed; and the downtown area in general. The guard served to augment the 11,500-member Chicago police force, 1,000 federal agents, and 7,500 federal soldiers.

Note: Chicago would not hold another major party convention until 1996, when Democrats held their national convention there during the administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley, son of Mayor Richard J. Daley. Governor Shapiro's order is available at the Illinois State Archives as part of Governor Record Series 101.036, "Samuel Harvey Shapiro Correspondence."