Tag Archives: Draft card burning

David Miller

David Miller

David Miller was not the first person to burn his draft card in protest of US involvement in the Vietnam War, but his case became the most publicized.
As more and more people protested the war, various ways of demonstrating that protest began. When burning a draft card was first being done, it was not illegal to do so.

David Miller


For example, Eugene Keyes burned his draft card on Christmas Eve 1963. He used to flame to light a peace candle.  The same day, Selective Service mailed Keyes a notice to report for his physical examination. (click/tap >>> NYT article)
On May 12, 1964 twelve student publicly burned their draft cards in New York City.
On May 5, 1965, forty men burned their draft cards at the University of California, Berkeley and a coffin was marched to the Berkeley Draft Board.
On August 31, 1965, President Johnson signed a law making the burning of draft cards a federal offense subject to a five-year prison sentence and $1000 fine. [The constitutionality of the federal law was upheld by the US Supreme Court in US v. O'Brien (May 27, 1968)]
On October 15, 1965, David Miller, a Catholic pacifist,  publicly burned his draft card. Three days later, the FBI arrested him. In its November 5 issue, Time magazine described the action of Miller and other draft card burners as "a post-adolescent craze."
Miller responded to that description from the Onondaga County Penitentiary. [note the term Vietniks]
David Miller
Nov. 26, 1965, Vol. 86, No. 22


Miller's arrest did not stop the draft card burning. For example, on November 6, 1965 in Union Square, NYC, Thomas Cornell (teacher) Marc Edelman (cabinetmaker), Roy Lisker (novelist and teacher), and James Watson (on staff of Catholic Worker Pacifist Movenet) burn their draft cards. On December 21, the four were indicted.

David Miller

On February 10, 1966 a jury convicted David Miller of burning his draft card, A judge sentenced him to three years in prison.
As an example of how divisive the war in general and draft card burning became, on March 31, 1966, high school boys punched and kicked seven anti-Vietnam demonstrators on the steps of the South Boston District Court House after four of the protesters had burned their Selective Service cards. With shouts of “Kill them, shoot them,” about 50 to75 high school boys charged the steps and knocked the demonstrators to the ground as a crowd of 200 watched. David O’Brien, 19, was one of the card burners. On July 1, O'Brien was sentenced to a Federal Youth Correctional Center for an indefinite term.

Judicial process

On October 13, 1966, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld Miller's conviction. It held that Congress had the right to enact a law against destroying a draft card so long as it did not infringe on a constitutional right.

The NY Civil Liberties Union challenged the constitutionality of law prohibiting draft card burning on December 12, 1966. The appeal charged that the law was an unconstitutional abridgment of the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment and its purpose is to suppress dissent.

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held unconstitutional the amendment to the Selective Service Act that forbade the burning of draft cards on April 10, 1967, 

On May 27, 1968, in United States v. O'Brien in a 7 – 1 opinion, the Supreme Court upheld the 1965 law that made it a crime to burn or otherwise destroy or mutilate a draft card. Chief Justice Warren, writing the majority opinion, rejected the lower court’s contention that draft card burning was “symbolic speech” and that Congress was forbidden by the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantees to outlaw it.


October 20

October 20

October 20, 1956, BLACK HISTORY: modeled after the Montgomery bus boycott, the Tallahassee bus boycott had begun after a May 17, 1956 incident in which two Florida A&M students were arrested for sitting in the white section of a city bus. Because the city’s buses were primarily patronized by African American residents, the boycott left the vehicles nearly empty. In July 1956, city officials were forced to suspend bus service due to lost revenue. The bus company resumed services in August following an initiative led by the Junior Chamber of Commerce to get more white residents to ride the buses but the boycott continued. The Tallahassee Inter-Civic Council (ICC) led the boycott and organized a carpool to serve as alternative transportation.

In October 1956, 21 carpool drivers, including nine people who comprised the ICC's executive committee, were arrested for not having “for hire” tags on their vehicles. On October 20, 1956, following a three-and-a-half-day trial, all 21 drivers were convicted. City Judge John Rudd sentenced them to pay a $500 fine or spend 60 days in jail, in addition to a suspended 60-day jail term and one year on probation.

Faced with this legal harassment, the ICC voted to end the carpool two days later. The boycott continued until December, however, ending only after federal courts ruled bus segregation unconstitutional. On January 7, 1957, the Tallahassee City Commission repealed the city’s bus segregation law.
October 20October 20, 1960, BLACK HISTORY & News Music: Charles Mingus records “Fables of Faubus” with lyrics for his Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus album for release on independent label after Columbia Records had refused to release it with lyrics.  The song was written as a direct protest against Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus  who in 1957 had sent out the National Guard to prevent the integration of Little Rock Central High School by nine African American teenagers. 


Oh, Lord, don’t let ’em shoot us!

Oh, Lord, don’t let ’em stab us!

Oh, Lord, don’t let ’em tar and feather us!

Oh, Lord, no more swastikas!

Oh, Lord, no more Ku Klux Klan!

 Name me someone who’s ridiculous, Dannie.

Governor Faubus!

Why is he so sick and ridiculous?

He won’t permit integrated schools.

Then he’s a fool! Boo! Nazi Fascist supremists!

Boo! Ku Klux Klan (with your Jim Crow plan)

 Name me a handful that’s ridiculous, Dannie Richmond.

Faubus, Rockefeller, Eisenhower

Why are they so sick and ridiculous?

 Two, four, six, eight:

They brainwash and teach you hate.

H-E-L-L-O, Hello.

October 20

October 20

October 20 – November 2, 1962: “Monster Mash” by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers #1 Billboard Hot 100.

October 20 – November 30, 1962: Peter, Paul, and Mary’s Peter, Paul, and Mary is Billboard’s #1 album.

October 20, 1965, BLACK HISTORY & March to Selma: Roy Reed in the NY Times reported that, ”an all-white jury dominated by self-proclaimed white supremacists was chosen...for the retrial of Collie Leroy Wilkins, Jr, a Ku Klux Klansman charged with the murder of Viola Liuzzo.” (click → NYT article)

October 20

October 20, 1967, Vietnam & DRAFT CARD BURNING: Dr Benjamin Spock turned in a briefcase full of what he said were draft cards to officials at the Justice Department building here and later accused one of them of being "derelict in his duty" for not having arrested him. He said he wanted to be arrested in order to precipitate a "moral, legal confrontation" with the Government over the draft. Justice Department officials said later that the briefcase had contained draft cards and other matter.

October 20

October 20, 1966, LSD : Ken Kesey arrested. (click → NYT article)
October 20October 20, 1969, The Beatles break-up: John Lennon and Yoko Ono released their third album, Wedding Album. According to Lennon, It was like our sharing our wedding with whoever wanted to share it with us. We didn't expect a hit record out of it. It was more of a... that's why we called it Wedding Album. You know, people make a wedding album, show it to the relatives when they come round. Well, our relatives are the... what you call fans, or people that follow us outside. So that was our way of letting them join in on the wedding.”  Wedding Album commemorated their wedding in Gibraltar on 20 March 1969. Although it was the final instalment in their trilogy of avant garde and experimental recordings, the couple continued to document their lives on tape until Lennon's death in 1980.

October 20, 1973, The Beatles post break-up: John Lennon filed suit asking the court to force the Immigration and Naturalization Service to produce the records under which deportation decisions were made. (click → NYT article)

October 20, 1973, Watergate Scandal: “Saturday Night Massacre”: Solicitor General Robert Bork fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox at the direction of President Richard Nixon after Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Assistant Attorney General Ruckelshaus had refused and resigned.

October 20, 2010, LGBTQ: Barack Obama's administration announced it would also appeal the judge's ruling on the constitutionally of Don't ask, don't Tell even though Obama announced earlier in the year that he wished to end the policy.

October 20, 2014, BLACK & SHOT: Officer Jason Van Dyke followed in his car 17-year-old Laquan McDonald before shooting him 16 times in the middle of Pulaski Road on the Southwest Side. It will be more than a year before the video of the incident is released. 

October 18

October 18

October 18, 1892, Technological Milestone: the first long distance telephone line between Chicago and New York was opened.

October 18, 1911, US Labor History & Feminism: New York City agreed to pay women school teachers a rate equal to that of men.
October 18On July 16, 1944,  Irene Morgan (age 27), recovering from a miscarriage and traveling by bus from Virginia to Baltimore for a doctor’s appointment refused to relinquish her seat [as well as another Black woman] to a white couple. The driver, angered by Morgan's refusal, drove the bus to the Middlesex County town of Saluda and stopped outside the jail. A sheriff's deputy came aboard and told Morgan that he had a warrant for her arrest. She continued to refuse and had to be physically subdued. She was jailed for resisting arrest and violating Virginia's segregation law. On this date [October 18, 1944} Morgan was convicted. On January 27, 1001, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal.

October 18

October 18

October 18, 1954, Technological Milestone: Industrial Development Engineering Associates announced the first practical transistor radio, the Regency TR-1. 
October 18October 18, 1957,  The Beatles before their US appearance: The Quarry Men performed at the New Clubmoor Hall (Conservative Club), Norris Green, Liverpool. This was Paul McCartney's first appearance with the group. The line-up for The Quarry Men was John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Eric Griffiths, Colin Hanton, and Len Garry. Paul McCartney, suffering from a case of the stage jitters, flubs his guitar solo on the song "Guitar Boogie". Upset with his playing, Paul tries to make amends by showing John a song he had written, "I Lost My Little Girl". John then shows Paul some songs that he has composed. The two start writing songs together from that moment, which marks the birth of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership. Pete Shotton, out of the group by this time, had no real musical ability and knew it; he was almost relieved when, during a drunken argument, John Lennon had smashed Pete's washboard over Pete's head. That was the end of Pete Shotton's career as a Quarry Man.
October 18October 18, 1962, The Cold War & Cuban Missile Crisis: President Kennedy met with Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrei Gromyko, who claimed the weapons were for defensive purposes only. Not wanting to expose what he already knew, and wanting to avoid panicking the American public, Kennedy did not reveal that he was already aware of the missile build-up.

 October 18, 1965, Vietnam & DRAFT CARD BURNING: the FBI arrested David Miller for burning draft card on October 15.
October 18October 18, 1967, Cultural Milestone: the first issue of Rolling Stone magazine released with a cover dated Nov 9 and featuring a photograph of John Lennon in the film How I Won the War.

October 18, 1967, Roots of Rock:  press release from WNEW-FM announcing that Rosko will be joinging station on October 31. He had left his previous station because of the lack of autonomy when choosing what recording he would play. WNEW-FM gave that freedom to him.

October 18, 1968, Black History: the U.S. Olympic Committee suspended Tommie Smith and John Carlos, for giving a "black power" salute as a protest during a victory ceremony in Mexico City.
October 18October 18, 1968, The Beatles after live performances: John Lennon and Yoko Ono were arrested by the Drugs Squad. Lennon and Ono were temporarily living at Ringo Starr's flat at 34 Montagu Square, London. Following a tip-off from a newspaper journalist friend, they had thoroughly cleaned the flat to make sure it was free of drugs. Lennon related: All of a sudden, there was this knock on the door and a woman's voice outside, and I look around and there is a policeman standing in the window, waiting to be let it. We'd been in bed and our lower regions were uncovered. Yoko ran into the bathroom to get dressed with her head poking out, so they wouldn't think she was hiding anything. Then I said, 'Ring the lawyer, quick,' but she went and rang Apple. I will never know why.... That thing was set up. The Daily Express was there before the cops came. In fact, Don Short had told us, 'They're coming to get you,' three weeks before. So, believe me, I'd cleaned the house out, because Jimi Hendrix had lived there before in the apartment, and I'm not stupid. I went through the whole damn house.
October 18October 18 – 31, 1969: “I Can’t Get Next To You” by The Temptations #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

October 18, 1972, Environmental Issues: Congress passed the Clean Water Act, overriding President Richard M. Nixon's veto. (click → NYT Clean Water Act article)

October 18, 2012, LGBT: the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan became the second in the nation to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. The decision upheld a lower court judge who ruled that the 1996 law that defines marriage as involving a man and a woman was unconstitutional. The three-judge panel said the law violates equal protection. A federal appeals court in Boston earlier in the year also found it unconstitutional. (click → NYT article)
October 18October 18, 2012, Newsweek magazine, in print publication since February 17, 1933, announced that would end print publication at the end of the year. (click → NYT article)

October 18, 2012, Sexual Abuse of Children: thousands of pages of internal documents, police files and newspaper clippings were released about how the Boy Scouts of America had policed the ranks of its scoutmasters and other volunteers to guard against sexual predators — and how they had often failed. The files were put together over a 20-year period in states across the nation on 1,247 men who were accused of abuse between 1965 and 1985, often with multiple victims. The release of the documents creates, for the first time, a public database on specific abuse accusations.  (click → NYT article)
October 18October 18, 2013 (Friday), LGBT: NJ state Supreme Court ruled that  the state must begin granting same-sex marriage licenses on October 21 (Monday) (click → NYT article)