Civil Rights · From the Archives · History · Nebraska

“Enclosed Please Find My Draft Card”—A Youthful Vietnam-Era Draft Dodger Returns His Draft Card

In the Spring of 1970, at the age of 22, I embarked on an epical odyssey of thousands of miles by thumb and boxcar.

It was motivated by a desire to evade military service in the war in Vietnam which I, like millions of others in my generation, had come to believe was an unjust war.

Later that year I sat down to write a letter to my hometown newspaper, the Lincoln, Nebraska Journal to explain my actions. I enclosed my draft card in the letter.

But then something unexpected happened: instead of printing my letter the editor carefully extricated my draft card and reached for the telephone. He called the Federal Bureau of Investigation, explaining he was in possession of evidence he suspected (rightly) could prove material to an ongoing investigation. My letter – and my draft card – were soon after scooped up by the FBI, who later entered the letter as a document in my FBI file, which survives in photocopied form to this day. I retrieved it from my permanent archival records at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada just yesterday.

My Letter to the Editor never was printed, so I publish it here for the first time, complete and unabridged. It is dated July 17, 1970, Vancouver, B.C.

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In Memoriam: Lee Joseph Kinney 1946-2014

I have lost a friend of my youth.

I was in high school with Lee Kinney, but it wasn’t until our University days that out friendship blossomed, and Lee was with me for many of life’s “firsts.”

Lee was with me circa 1966 on my first-ever information picket, against the presence of the Dow Chemical Company’s recruiters on our campus, the University of Nebraska. It was a low-key, peaceful enough affair in the Student Union, but such events, while common enough across the country at the time, were still a rarity at Nebraska. You feel apprehensive, always, on your first picket line, exposed and more than a little silly, but Lee was there with me, handing out the broadside I’d just written and mimeographed, condemning Dow for profiting from its manufacture of napalm, which was being dropped on the people of Vietnam by U.S. forces with shameful abandon.

Once our University days were over (Lee and I were both drop-outs) we decamped Nebraska, as unfettered flatlanders are wont to do, and made a beeline for the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Continue reading “In Memoriam: Lee Joseph Kinney 1946-2014”