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MEMORIES OF ’68 STICK WITH UTAHN

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National guardsmen surrounded their buses. They were literally trapped inside their high-rise hotel rooms, watching police on the streets below battle rock-throwing protesters with clubs. That's Beverly White's recollection of the last Democratic National Convention she attended in Chicago.

She expects a much different reception next week.White - by her own admission the "old lady of the Democratic conventions" - will be attending her sixth national convention as a Utah delegate. Her first was Atlantic City in 1964. Then Chicago in 1968, Miami Beach in 1972, New York City in 1980, San Francisco in 1984, Atlanta in 1988 and now back to Chicago.

Of them all, the one she remembers most was 1968. And that's understandable, for that was the year thousands of protesters descended on Chicago, and then-Mayor Richard J. Daley's tough-nosed police force battled them night and day in the parks and on the streets during the convention.

Next week, Daley's son, Mayor Richard M. Daley, will put a very different face forward than the one seen by national TV audiences nearly 30 years ago. The scenes of those riots burned into the minds of Americans who lived through a troubled year that saw prolonged Vietnam War protests, the assassinations of Martin Lurther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, and finally, Chicago.

The memory of that bad convention week has lasted so long, in fact, that neither the Democrats nor Republicans have returned to Chicago for a national convention since.

White, who lists her age as "60plus," brought her then-16-year-old son, Doug, with her that year. Doug White worked as a page in the convention hall, just as his older sister had done in the 1964 convention in Atlantic City. "We had no idea, warning, of what was going to happen in Chicago," says White, who served as a Utah House member from 1971 to 1990.

"The convention was in the old cow palace out by the stockyards. It was a stockyard arena, and it smelled awful." But the smell inside was nothing to the chaos outside.

"Basically, the protesters - I call them rioters - wanted to block us into our hotels to stop the convention. We had police and national guardsmen guarding our buses so we could get through (to the convention). We didn't sightsee much, or go out. We did go to one (professional) baseball game. But I was so exhausted from the convention and (rioting) that I fell asleep during the game," White recalls.

The rioting polarized delegates and other attendees alike. White herself was angry at the rioters. But the effect on her son was greater. Without telling his mother and father, Doug White decided when he turned 18 to join the Marine Corps and fight in Vietnam. He told White later that his resolve started at the convention. "He wanted to go over there (to Vietnam) and end it once and for all," recalls his mother.

Upon graduating from Tooele High School, he joined the Marines and came home and told his mother. "I said you can't do that, we haven't given you permission. He said he could, he was 18." He went to Vietnam. "I worried every day. I had nightmares about Doug getting killed or wounded. No mother should have to go through what I did - if all mother's did, there would be no more wars, I'll tell you that."

Doug White returned home unharmed, went to college and law school and now practices law in Tooele.

Now, years later, Beverly White can look back on that time with a little humor. But just a little.

"The Utah (Democratic) delegation met the other day and (the leaders) warned us that security would be very tight in Chicago at the convention next week. They don't know what tight security is. In 1968 (to keep protesters from infiltrating the convention hall) they changed our credentials two and three times a day. We had armed guards on our buses, around our hotels. Compared to that, I look forward to a relaxing week" at this convention.