CW woman recalls May 4, 1970 at Kent State

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Linda Taylor Henry Boving is a Canal Winchester hometown girl whose view of

Linda Taylor Henry Boving as she looked when attending Kent State University in 1970.

the world changed forever on May 4, 1970—the day after her 20th birthday.

The 1968 Canal Winchester High School graduate was attending Kent State University (KSU) as a fine arts major on that fateful spring day when campus unrest stemming from demonstrations against the Vietnam War turned into chaos and the death of students. Fifty years later, the memories remain fresh for Boving.

Her family was planning a party for her that weekend and she left the university for home immediately following her last class on May 1.

“Because I was home in Canal Winchester, I was unaware of the events that began that weekend” recalled Boving.

On May 1, KSU students and outsiders trashed buildings, broke windows and set fires on Water Street in downtown Kent, followed by the burning of the ROTC building the next evening.

“I was not aware of what was happening at Kent until Sunday afternoon, May 3. As I drove back onto campus, I saw helicopters, armored cars, Jeeps, machine guns, mini-tanks, and soldiers. Even with all of that, there seemed to be more of a carnival atmosphere on campus,” said Boving. “The coeds were flirting with the National Guardsmen, many of whom were about 20-years-old or younger. I heard that a group from the Salvation Army came to give the Guardsmen hot dogs and they were lounging on the ground eating them. Girls were putting flowers in the muzzles of the Guardsmen’s guns, and everyone expected the Guard to be gone by morning.”

Boving said everything seemed cordial, at least up until dusk. Radical students started to protest the Guard on campus and the campus curfew was moved ahead to 11 p.m. with no means to notify students who were out for the evening.

“Announcements were made in the dorms regarding the curfew,” said Boving. “If you went outside, the Guard could tear gas you. Unfortunately, the students who were still downtown did not know this. As they returned to their dorms in groups helicopters dropped tear gas on them. It burned their eyes and choked them. They began running to their dorms for help. When they got to the doors of my dorm the doors were blocked, preventing them from entering.”

Boving and fellow dorm residents watched from a window as the Guard, armed with guns and bayonets, marched down a dark hill toward Koonce Hall. A voice came over the public address system telling everyone to get away from the windows or they could be shot.

“At that moment everything changed for me,” said Boving. “The National Guard was no longer a spring novelty on campus. I remember talking to my father from my seventh-floor dorm room and holding the phone out the window so he could hear the deafening sound of the helicopter that was hovering nearby.”

On May 4, Boving had an art class across the commons where a rally was scheduled for later that day. She decided not to go and stayed in her dorm room, a decision she thinks saved her life.

By noon, a crowd gathered on the commons consisting of some Vietnam War protestors, some changing classes, and others just spectators.

“The Ohio National Guard was ordered to disperse the crowd with a barrage of tear gas,” said Boving. “Demonstrators grabbed some of the canisters and threw them back at the Guard which had little effect as they were wearing gas masks. At some point, people in the crowd began throwing rocks at the Guard. Ultimately, the Guard assumed a firing position. Shots were fired. Thirteen students were hit. Eleven boys and two girls. Four students died.”

Shortly after the shootings, students were given one hour to evacuate campus. Boving said dorm phones were dead so no one could call for outside help to get off campus and panic ensued.

“I wasn’t on the front line during the shootings. I was not a protestor. I was just a regular Kent State student,” said Boving. “Yet, the fear of death was palatable. The fear of being shot as you attempted to leave the building permeated everyone on campus. A lot of people on my floor knew I had a car. Immediately following the announcement, everyone congregated in the common area outside of our dorm rooms. Many of the girls were crying and were begging me to take them with me. A couple of girls wanted me to take their boyfriends, too.”

There were over 20,000 students at Kent at that time and very few people had a car on campus. Boving drove a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda that comfortably held five people. By the time she got to the parking lot, people were crowding into her car.

“I would say I had seven or eight people in my car. Girls were sitting on their boyfriends’ laps. I took some people to the Kent bus depot and others to the Akron bus depot. My roommate lived in Upper Arlington so I took her home and then I returned to Canal Winchester,” said Boving.

A couple of days later, Boving received a phone call from the FBI at home. She said they were told she carried the person off campus who set the ROTC buildings on fire.

“I explained how chaotic the situation had been and that I really didn’t even know who everyone was in my car,” said Boving. “I gave them names of the people I knew and I never heard from them again.”

May 4, 1970 was her last official day as a student at Kent State. Students were not allowed to return for classes and all courses for the quarter were completed through correspondence. It was a month or so before Boving was allowed back into her dorm room to collect her belongings.

“To my surprise, all of the dresser drawers and papers had been gone through as though someone had been searching for something. I do not know if everyone’s dorm room had been ransacked or if it was the FBI checking to find evidence that I had been complicit in the burning of the ROTC buildings,” said Boving. “The May 4th massacre changed the trajectory of my life. I had been looking forward to a career in art education, but my family did not want me to go back to college. Instead I got a job working in display at Lazarus. I was fortunate to have creative jobs that took me all over the world for the rest of my life, but I always missed not finishing my college career.”

Boving hoped to attend the 50th anniversary commemoration ceremonies at Kent State, but due to COVID-19, the university decided to hold an online program instead. She said Tina Fey, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Jesse Colin Young, Jerry Casale, and Jeff Richmond are participating in a variety of online events marking the anniversary of the May 4 shootings at Kent State.

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