Tragedy, Protests and New Horizons: 1970-1979

The 1970s started as a sad, troubled period, yet ended with new hope. An airplane crash took the lives of 75 people, including members of the Thundering Herd football team, coaches, supporters and crew. Students protested the war in Vietnam and rioted in the streets over drug raids. These presidents and an acting president sat in Old Main with stability finally coming to the office in the second half of the decade.

After 22 troubled-filled months in office, President Roland H. Nelson Jr. resigned in 1970. John G. Barker in 1971 was the first president to have an official inauguration. He also was the first to occupy the presidential mansion near Ritter Park.

A new student center opened and was dedicated to those who died in the airplane crash. Old Shawkey Student Union was demolished. Fairfield Stadium expansion was completed, Harris Hall and the Communications Building opened.

Dr. Robert B. Hayes, dean of the Teachers College, became president in 1974 and would serve for nine years.

The Community College was created in 1975 and the School of Medicine became a reality with the first class admitted in 1978.

The athletic program regained respectability. The 1971-1972 men’s basketball team won 23 games and lost only four, rising as high as eighth in the national rankings. Marshall joined the Southern Conference in 1977 and the Herd and West Virginia University finally met on the basketball court in 1978, launching a new series of competition between the two state universities.

The 1970 football team and coaches. The team was killed on its return from a game with East Carolina on November 14. Among those killed was Gene Morehouse, who was the team’s play-by-play announcer. His son, Keith lives on his memory as the Sports Director of WSAZ NewsChannel 3 in Huntington. Keith also has served as the TV play-by-play announcer.
The front page of the Huntington newspaper Sunday, November 15, 1970, the morning after the Saturday night crash near Tri-State Airport.
“America Weeps,” an editorial cartoon in The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. The team was returning to Huntington when the plane crashed. All 75 people aboard died.
More than 7,000 mourners attended a memorial service at Memorial Field House on the evening after the airliner crash. Above, funeral services are held at one time for six football players who could not be individually identified.
Memorial Student Center Fountain was dedicated in November 1972 to the memory of the airliner crash victims. The water stops flowing every fall on November 14 – the day in 1970 which the plane went down. There is also an annual memorial service to ensure new generations will “never forget.”
A monument is erected in Spring Hill Cemetery in Huntington which marks the gravesites of six of the players.
The new student center can be seen in the background behind Shawkey Student Union in the wintry scene. The new center opened in September 1971 and the old building was torn down the following spring.
Shawkey Student Union, part of the campus since the early 1930s, was to be no more as wrecking crews did their work. The new student center already was open in the background. After Shawkey Student Union was torn down, many students hoped the land would become green area and planted trees to protest more asphalt on campus. It became a parking lot despite their efforts.
A real, live Marco was popular at football games in the late 1960s and early ’70s. As a youngster, the bison roamed the sidelines on a rope, but later became so rambunctious the animal had to be kept in this specially constructed trailer. Marco made the news wires when the mascot tried to graze on the new artificial turf at Fairfield Stadium.
The campus was active with outdoor events during the early ’70s including an Impact Week speaker above. Rock concerts were also popular.
Part of the “near campus” scene for many years was John’s Sandwich Isle on Third Avenue across from where Smith Hall is now located. For years, students flocked to John’s for his barbecues and a go at the pinball machines. Owner John Stafford, above, energetically serves a customer. The site is now one of MU’s parking lots. Wiggins’ Barbecue was also a popular hangout through the years. It was located across from Old Main. It was purchased in 1993 and the owners changed the longtime name. It burned down soon after.
It’s not ancient Greece, but the Greeks on campus have always had their competition. The winner is proclaimed here in a Greek Week chariot race on Fourth Avenue near campus. The hangout “Wiggins’ Barbecue” can be seen in the background.
It’s still considered a very special time in the history of Thundering Herd football. Following the plane crash in November 1970, Marshall had pieced together a football team for the following season and the media called it the “Young Thundering Herd.” It was the first home game after the crash. With no time left on the clock in the September 25, 1971 game, Terry Gardner, No. 26, a freshman pulled in a pass from quarterback Reggie Oliver for a 15-13 win over Xavier. The score came on a play never used by the Herd. On a bootleg screen pass off the left side, Oliver threw to Gardner instead of to the expected receiver who was well covered. “It was a storybook finish,” proclaimed new coach Jack Lengyel in the locker room after the victory. “No one thought we had a chance to win except the team.” The Herd finished the year 2-8, also beating Bowling Green.
Angered by drug raids in the campus area during the early 1970s, students rioted in the streets, including incidents of rock throwing, breaking windows in nearby businesses and setting fire to garbage dumpsters. Here, police in riot gear are lined up outside the main gate at 16th Street and Fourth Avenue.
Campus lights reflecting off the snow provide this bright night scene behind the Science Building in 1975.
Harris Hall was dedicated in the second half of the 1970s and named in honor of Dr. A. E. Harris, the first dean of the Graduate School.
This Homecoming 1977 float signifies Marshall joining the Southern Conference that year. Athletic teams had participated as independents since 1969.
This former railway hospital next to campus became the home of the new School of Medicine that admitted its first class in 1978. The program was a cooperative effort with the Veterans Administration. Additional facilities would be added later at the VA Medical Center west of Huntington.