Compromise (May 14-17)

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
What’s going on

What’s Going On,” Marvin Gaye

Over the next few days, Mathews met with various concerned parties in state and local government as well as the University’s Board of Trustees — but notably with neither of the groups representing the students, that is, the Student-Faculty Coalition & the Student Government Association.

All of these groups, including the students, had their own opinions about how to proceed because all had some stake in the outcome.

May 14 – Pres. Mathews & City Officials

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, Tuscaloosa mayor Snow Hinton and city commissioner Hilliard Fletcher came to campus to speak to Mathews and to the student leaders.

Later that morning, Mathews put a 9 p.m. curfew in place and banned all student assemblies. He spent much of the day talking with students in dorms and fraternity and sorority houses.

May 15 – Pres. Mathews & the Governor

Governor Albert Brewer, a 41-year-old Progressive Democrat and University alum, came to campus to discuss the situation with Mathews on Friday. At that point, things were quiet.

That day, Mathews publicly praised the students for keeping to the curfew. But he also urged anyone who was relatively local to go home for the weekend, thus hoping to clear the campus somewhat.

That night, Brewer went on statewide television to speak out against lawless behavior on campuses.

(May 16 – The Student Government Association)

While Mathews was worried about keeping the support of the governor’s office and the city, the Student Government Association was drafting a statement about the continued police presence on campus.

They asked that Tuscaloosa police be turned out of campus and that University police stop dressing for a presumed riot, wearing helmets and carrying nightsticks. On the other hand, they thanked Brewer for sending the state troopers and asked them to be kept nearby, in case they were needed.

May 17 – Pres. Mathews & the Trustees

Mathews met with the University’s Board of Trustees on Sunday, in order to describe what happened in more detail and explain how he wanted to approach future investigation of the incident and discipline of the perpetrators. They unanimously approved of his handling of the situation. 

The climate on campus seemed to be cooling, but another public demonstration planned for Monday evening could only be seen as a potential problem.


“What’s Going on,” performed by Marvin Gaye and written by Al Cleveland, Renaldo Benson, and Gaye, was recorded June 1970 and released as a single in January 1971 then later on What’s Going On


  • Earl H. Tilford, “May 1970: Days of Rage and Reason,” Turning the Tide: The University of Alabama in the 1960s, Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2014, pgs 190-208.