A Pivotal Year During The 1960s

Photo of me taken in July 1965 in Rocky Mountain National Park taken by my father. 

Recently I watched a documentary on PBS from their American Experience series about the year 1964. They said that year was a pivotal year in that decade where a lot of things happened that changed just about all aspects of life in the United States. After watching that two-hour documentary, I must agree. In 1964 I was in high school at Valley Forge High School, and I remember the events of that year very well.

At the beginning of the year, the country was still in shock after the assassination of President John F Kennedy. Lyndon Johnson had taken over as President and the holiday season in 1963 was somewhat subdued compared to other years.

But early in the year events happened that would change everything later. The first thing was the arrival of The Beatles in the United States. They had been a big hit in Europe and on February 9, 1964, they were on the Ed Sullivan show on a Sunday night. The next day in school that is all everyone was talking about, and the girls were going crazy over The Beatles. Their first single and album shot to the top of the charts and for most of the year, The Beatles dominated the airwaves. They were followed by several British rock and roll groups in what became known as the “British invasion”.

Also, that month was a heavyweight match between a young boxer named Cassius Clay and the reigning world champion, Sonny Liston. Cassius Clay was brash and was a darling of the media with his rhyming predictions for the fight. He also welcomed The Beatles to his training camp and posed for photos with The Beatles. In the fight, Sonny Liston didn’t come out for the seventh round and Cassius Clay became the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. It wasn’t long after that fight that he went public with the fact that he had converted to Islam through the Black Muslims and changed his name to Mohammad Ali.

Later that spring, President Lyndon Johnson addressed the commencement at the University of Michigan and in that address, he outlined his “great society”, a series of programs designed to help the poor and disadvantaged people across the country. Those programs included the food stamp program, the Head Start Program and increased federal spending on education.

Then, in June it was reported that three civil rights workers who were in Mississippi registering black people to vote were missing. After an extensive search, their bodies were found buried in an earthen dam and evidence led to those three men being killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan. In July, President Johnson signed into law the most sweeping Civil Rights Act since Reconstruction. One Senator who voted against that Civil Rights Act was Arizona Republican Barry Goldwater, who went on to become the Republican party’s nominee for President to face Lyndon Johnson who was running for a full term as President. Goldwater was known as a real conservative, “A Choice, Not an Echo” as a popular book described him.

Another thing happened in the summer of 1964 that was a preview of what was to come later in our cities. A black man was shot and killed by a white policeman in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. That was the spark that set off several days of rioting in that neighborhood as stores and housed were burned.

But in the first week of August, a small incident halfway around the world happened that changed the entire course of the decade. That was when an American destroyer was attacked by North Vietnamese gunboats in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam. President Johnson asked for and got the authority to take “whatever actions that he deemed necessary” to deal with aggression by the North Vietnamese. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in fact was a de facto declaration of war against North Vietnam. That resolution passed the Senate with only two dissenting votes.

Almost immediately the draft calls increased. At the time, there were less than 20,000 American combat troops in Vietnam. Four years later the number of American combat troops in Vietnam reached 535,000 troops. Eventually over 58,000 Americans would be killed in the Vietnam War.

The presidential election dominated the news at the end of the year. During that campaign, the Republican party found themselves with some available television time and needed something to fill that time. So, they showed a recording of a speech given in support of Barry Goldwater by actor Ronald Reagan. His speech was very well received, but it didn’t have much effect on the outcome of the election.

Lyndon Johnson won in a landslide, winning with 61% of the popular vote and Barry Goldwater only carried his home state of Arizona and five states in the deep south. It was clear that the political alignment in the United States was changing since the south had been considered as solidly Democratic. As far as Ronald Reagan, two years later he was elected governor of California and sixteen years later, he was elected President of the United States.

The election also swept in strong Democratic majorities in both houses of congress and in 1965, President Johnson was able to get his proposals for Medicare and Medicaid passed as well as the Voting Rights Act. But Lyndon Johnson didn’t have much time to enjoy his victory. By 1968, with over a half million combat troops in Vietnam and protests around the country against the war, he decided not to run for another term as President. Sixty years later, his legacy is mixed and still controversial.

Photo of me taken in July 1965 in Rocky Mountain National Park by my father.

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 16, Issue 4, Posted 10:15 AM, 04.01.2024