Originally created 08/28/99

A look at the 20th century: 1966



The Vietnam War dragged on in 1966, gradually escalating until nearly 400,000 American troops were bogged down in a seemingly endless conflict.

It was a new kind of war for the U.S. infantry grunt, part civil conflict between two Vietnams -- North and South -- and part guerrilla warfare where Viet Cong fighters slipped in and out of the jungle for hit-and-run attacks.

The fighting was punctuated by bombing pauses and special truces, but serious peace talks were far down the line. And though U.S. military brass often talked optimistically of "light at the end of the tunnel," 1966 would be a year of deepening American involvement in an undeclared Asian war.

Lt. Gen. Lewis B. Hershey, the nation's draft director, declared Jan. 2 that the Selective Service System might have to tap into college classrooms to meet manpower needs -- a development that would pit many of America's youths against their government.

Also in the opening days of 1966, U.S. paratroopers dropped into the Communist-dominated Mekong Delta, striking in force for some of the heaviest fighting of the war up to that time.

Increasing use of American military forces was allowed under the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed in 1964 to authorize President Lyndon B. Johnson to take necessary steps to maintain peace in the area.

But by February 1966, U.S. Sen. William Fulbright of Arkansas was openly questioning the resolution, declaring that the Senate should have investigated the reported North Vietnamese attack on American warships that prompted the resolution.

Back home, Julian Bond fought to keep the Georgia House of Representatives seat he had won in an election. Opponents questioned his loyalty to the nation because he had agreed with John Lewis, now a Georgia congressman, that civil rights leaders should avoid the draft.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., leading a demonstration for Mr. Bond, asked in January if Mr. Fulbright and U.S. Sen. Mike Mansfield should be turned out of the U.S. Senate for speaking against the Vietnam War. A federal court upheld Mr. Bond's ouster in February, while the black legislator's Atlanta-area constituents re-elected him to another term a week later.

But Mr. Bond would have to wait until December to take his seat in the Legislature after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in his favor and being elected to his seat in three separate elections.

Changes in the South's political climate continued as North Augusta held its first Republican primary in March 1966 and GOP officials opened a local party headquarters in September.

Alabama's Democratic Gov. George C. Wallace threatened to run for president in 1968 if the national "Democrats and Republicans don't give us someone to vote for." By Sept. 19, he declared his intention to run as a third-party candidate.

Things went well for Georgia Gov. Carl Sanders, an Augusta attorney, in 1966 when the state Legislature passed his anti-gambling legislation. State Sen. Jimmy Carter of Plains, Ga., who was elected president a decade later, was barely nosed out of the Democratic run-off for governor, which became a race between Atlanta restaurateur Lester Maddox and former Gov. Ellis Arnall. Mr. Maddox emerged as the winner.

But Mr. Carter declared he could not support Mr. Maddox, an ardent segregationist whose symbol became an ax handle. U.S. Rep. Charles Weltner, an Atlanta Democrat who had signed a pledge to support all of his party's candidates, gave up his seat in Congress rather than support Mr. Maddox for governor.

Mr. Maddox faced Republican Howard "Bo" Callaway in November's general election. Neither won a majority because of a large write-in vote for Arnall, and the election was left for the Legislature to decide. Eventually, Mr. Maddox emerged the victor.

Formation of the militant Black Panther Party presented evidence to some of the increasing dissatisfaction with the nonviolent movement led by Dr. King.

Speaking to the state Lions Clubs' convention at Augusta Town House, Georgia's U.S. Sen. Herman Talmadge decried what he called "the nation's trend to blatant lawlessness" and said the nation is torn by "a frustrating war in Southeast Asia."

Boston Red Sox great Ted Williams was ushered into the Baseball Hall of Fame and Jack Nicklaus won the Masters Tournament. Johnson appointed the first black Cabinet member, Robert C. Weaver, as secretary of housing and urban development.

Rear seat belts became standard equipment in American cars, but Studebaker breathed its last and went out of business even as Oldsmobile launched its front-wheel drive Toronado.

Julie London sang at the Americana Royal Box in New York City; Frank Sinatra and Count Basie played at the Fountainbleau in Miami Beach, Fla.

In Houston, Dr. Michael DeBakey implanted an artificial heart into a patient. Charles Brenton Huggins and Francis Peyton Rouse shared the Nobel Prize for medicine, while Israeli writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon and Sweden's Nelly Sachs shared the literature prize. Paul Scofield won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of St. Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons, winner of the award for best motion picture. Actress Elizabeth Taylor took the Oscar for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

The starship Enterprise began its voyage into the final frontier on television's new science fiction series Star Trek, while McHale's Navy sailed the waters of the South Pacific and Guy Williams exchanged his Zorro outfit for a space suit in Lost in Space.

U.S. astronauts David Scott and Neil Armstrong's trip aboard Gemini 8 was cut short by two days after a perfect blastoff when the space capsule lurched out of control eight hours into their flight. Mr. Scott and Mr. Armstrong splashed down safely. By June 9, Gemini 9 was ready for its rendezvous with Surveyor 1, an unmanned robot.

The average American ate 100 pounds of beef and 60 pounds of pork in 1966. Grocery shoppers paid 79 cents a pound for pork and 69 cents for a five-pound bag of potatoes.

A shopper could buy eight pounds of oranges for 49 cents and two pounds of apples for 39 cents, with the average family of four spending $28.25 a week on groceries.

As year's end approached, Maj. Gen. W.E. De Puy, commander of the First U.S. Infantry Division in Vietnam, said: "I don't want to suggest the war is over, but I want to clearly suggest it's well on its way."

Time line

Jan. 3:

U.S. military forces in South Vietnam engage in heavy fighting in the Communist-dominated Mekong Delta.

Jan. 11:

State Rep.-elect Julian Bond's opposition to U.S. efforts in Vietnam leads the Georgia House of Representatives to refuse to seat him by a vote of 184 to 12.

Feb. 2:

Georgia Power Co. announces plans for a $3 million hydroelectric plant near Augusta's Lake Olmstead.

Feb. 17:

Debate over the Vietnam War breaks out in the U.S. Senate, with Sen. William Fulbright of Arkansas declaring the Senate should have investigated before passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

March 16:

U.S. astronauts David Scott and Neil Armstrong make a perfect blastoff in the Gemini 8 spacecraft, but experience trouble eight hours into the flight, forcing NASA to cut the trip short.

March 21:

North Augusta holds its first Republican primary election.

April 4:

French President Charles de Gaulle declares NATO is no longer suited to his country's needs and pulls out of the Western defense organization.

April 21:

Dr. Michael DeBakey implants an artificial heart into a patient during surgery in Houston.

May 23:

Anti-American riots rock Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam.

June 3:

Gemini 3 is ready to blast off for rendezvous with Surveyor I, an unmanned U.S. space robot.

June 14:

U.S. Sen. Herman Talmadge of Georgia decries the "nation's trend to lawlessness" at the state Lions convention in Augusta.

June 22:

Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Co. installs its 600,000th phone in South Carolina at a ceremony in Bennettsville. The first call is placed to Gov. Robert McNair.

June 30:

Internal Revenue Service agents seize slot machines at Meadows Club in Augusta, saying the machines were being operated without federal stamps.

July 4:

Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the Army commander from Spartanburg, S.C., in charge of U.S. military forces in Southeast Asia, says the United States has "now begun to win" in Vietnam.

Aug. 8:

Former Vice President Richard M. Nixon, a GOP presidential contender, says 500,000 American troops are needed in Vietnam -- 200,000 more than currently serving there.

Sept. 13:

U.S. Claims Court Judge H.E. Gyles dies at his home in Aiken at age 91.

Sept. 19:

Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace, a segregationist Southern Democrat, declares he will run as a third party candidate for president in 1968.

Sept. 21:

Republican Party opens its headquarters in North Augusta with a ribbon cutting.

Sept. 29:

Atlanta restaurateur Lester Maddox wins the Democratic runoff to become his party's nominee for Georgia governor.

Oct. 4:

U.S. Rep. Charles Weltner of Atlanta gives up his seat in Congress, saying he cannot support Lester Maddox, his party's nominee for Georgia governor.

Nov. 4:

U.S. forces in Vietnam reach 382,000.

Nov. 9:

Neither Mr. Maddox nor Republican Howard "Bo" Callaway win a majority in the Georgia governor's race because of the large number of write-in votes for former Democratic Gov. Ellis Arnall. The election is thrown to the state Legislature.

Nov. 11:

Ground is broken for a $1.9 million veterans nursing home on six acres at Allen Park near Walton Way and 15th Street in Augusta. Today, the center is called the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home.

Dec. 6:

Mr. Bond finally takes his seat in the Georgia House of Representatives after winning three elections and a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dec. 15:

Cartoonist Walt Disney, founder of the Disney entertainment empire, dies of lung cancer.

Pat Willis can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.