When the Government Went After Dr. Spock


“In the national memory of 1968 — dominated by images of student protests, police riots and assassinations — the Boston conspiracy trial of Benjamin Spock, the world’s most famous baby doctor, and four other antiwar activists is too often forgotten. Yet, as a courtroom drama, unfolding at the height of the Vietnam War, in a season of upheaval, the trial — which ended on June 14, 1968 — captivated the nation and foreshadowed a prolonged series of legal struggles arising from protest against the war. The indictment of the ‘Boston Five’ shocked the nation, not least because Spock was one of the most admired figures in America. To millions of parents who had bought his ‘Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care,’ first published in 1946, Spock had been a familiar, reassuring presence. Even as he moved into politics in the early 1960s — campaigning against nuclear arms testing and proliferation — he did so as a pediatrician, worrying about the effects on children. By 1968, Spock’s outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War and his support of draft resisters had drawn praise from his letter-writing public; many parents seemed to appreciate his risking his reputation to protest against the war, for sticking his neck out on behalf of their now draft-age children. But just as many wrote to condemn him. President Lyndon Johnson, for one, counted himself among Spock’s former admirers. In 1964, the president had been happy to have Spock’s public support on the campaign trail. By 1967, Johnson felt betrayed by the good doctor. In fact, Spock’s indictment originated indirectly with an October 1967 presidential order to Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Johnson, furious upon hearing reports that protesters had left nearly 1,000 draft cards at the Justice Department, wanted all draft resisters prosecuted or called for induction into the Army. Clark had other ideas. … In the indictments, the government accused Spock; the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, the 43-year-old chaplain at Yale; Michael Ferber, a 23-year-old Harvard graduate student; Mitchell Goodman, 44, a novelist and teacher; and Marcus Raskin, 33, the head of a Washington think tank, for ‘unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly’ conspiring to ‘commit offenses against the United States.’ …”
NY Times
Anti-war Activists Sentenced to Prison
New Yorker: THE TRIAL OF DR. SPOCK (August 30, 1968)
The Harvard Crimson: Spock Trial Is Beginning Here Today (May 1968)


About 1960s: Days of Rage

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This entry was posted in Draft board, Lyn. Johnson, Vietnam War and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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