1968 Democratic National Convention remembered

Monday, August 25th 2008, 7:19 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of the start of the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where protests and riots threatened to shut it down.

Oklahoman John Meek was the convention coordinator and has vivid memories of the event.

Meek said organizers of the '68 convention faced an enormous challenge.

Vietnam was splitting convention delegates in the hall, while large anti-war protests were being knocked down with shocking brutality outside the hall and right in the middle of it all was a 38-year-old from Rocky, Okla. was Meek.

"Sitting there in my office, watching that on TV, God, it was awful," Meek said.

Now 78-years-old, Meek was at the Oklahoma History Center Monday, where a new exhibit on Oklahomans at national conventions just opened. He said it was frustrating, having worked so hard to put the '68 convention together, to see it all unravel, eventually right in the convention hall, with CBS News cameras rolling.

"Oh, it was, it was just...it was heartbreaking, and heartbreaking because there was nothing I could do about it," Meek said.

Even more heartbreaking, Meek said, was the Democrats' Chicago implosion that essentially gave Richard Nixon the election.

"Without any question, it was a close election," Meek said. "Many people don't realize that it was a close election, and Humphrey would have won going away."

Still, Meek said, as rough as those four days in August were, he's proud of the fact that the convention never stopped.

"I'm very proud of that, because nobody except John Meek knows what all the crises were and how big they were," Meek said.

Meek said it was his dream to put on the best convention in the party's history, but the protests turned the dream into a nightmare. Just the same, he said, he'll be watching as coverage of the 2008 DNC gets underway.

Follow the latest on the 2008 Democratic National Convention.