Faculty Research at Morehead State University


The Not So Silent Minority: Louisville's Antiwar Movement, 1966-1975


John Ernst

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I DON'T HAVE NO PERSONAL QUARREL WITH THOSE VlETCONGS," DECLARED heavyweight boxing champion and Louisville native Muhammad Ali. The fighter's 1966 statement against the Vietnam War, along with his refusal the next year to be inducted into the United States armed forces, reverberated throughout America. Boxing officials seized his title and banned him until 1970, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling facilitated his return to the ring. Ali's opposition to the draft placed the well known athlete in a different kind of limelight, making him a hero who personified the issues of race and class that divided the South and intersected over the Vietnam War. Ali's outlook contrasted sharply with that of Louie B. Nunn, who in 1967 became Kentucky's first Republican governor in twenty years and who embodied America's "silent majority," the "decent, law-abiding, constructive citizens who form the heart and conscience of our nation." Nunn claimed to have given Richard M. Nixon the famous phrase that identified Nixon's political base and helped bring him victory in the 1968 presidential election. Nixon won that close contest, in part, because Americans like Nunn wanted an honorable end to the Vietnam War and the social turmoil the conflict caused at home.