This article was originally published by The Mennonite

CO activist, former Bluffton teacher, receives apology 53 years later

Photo: Larry Gara speaks to a reporter during an interview at his home, Oct. 5, 2015, in Wilmington, Ohio. The 93-year-old retired professor and well-known peace activist dating back to World War II was fired from Grove City College in 1962 for his pacifist views and has recently received a formal apology from the institution. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

On Oct. 28, the Associated Press ran a story about Larry Gara, 93, who was fired from his position at Grove City College in Pennsylvania in 1962.

Now, 53 years later, the school says it’s sorry.

According to the AP story: “The Texas native decided to become a Quaker at age 18, and then spent three years in federal prison for refusing to register for the draft during World War II. Once behind bars, he protested because the white and black inmates weren’t allowed to eat together.”

Later, after earning a master’s degree, Gara taught history at Bluffton (Ohio) College (now University), a Mennonite school, for the 1948-49 school year.

In the spring of 1949, Gara, who was also a hall director at the school, went on trial for aiding a Bluffton student’s nonregistration with the draft.

According to the book, Dancing with the Kobzar: Bluffton College and Mennonite Higher Education 1899-1999 (Pandora Press U.S., 2000), by Bluffton history professor Perry Bush, student Charles Rickert “had already made up his mind to resist registering for the 1948 draft.” When FBI agents came and arrested Rickert in September 1948, Gara told Rickert not to “let them coerce you into changing your conscience.”

The judge at Gara’s trial, writes Bush, “remarked that Gara was ‘obviously mentally unbalanced’; he asked the young professor to submit to a psychiatric examination.” Gara was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison. He eventually served seven.

According to Bush: “About 150 [Bluffton] students, half the study body, appeared at Gara’s trial in support, along with [Bluffton president L.L.] Ramseyer and Dean [J.S.] Schultz.”

While Ramseyer didn’t agree with nonregistration, he deemed Gara’s case “a monumental injustice,” writes Bush, and he wrote “angry editorials” in The Mennonite (at that time the magazine of the General Conference Mennonite Church).

Richard Jewell, a former president of Grove City College, a Presbyterian school, visited Gara in August and told him, “I want to express my regret and the regret of the college about how they treated you.”

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