The Ohio State University Alumni Association

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Makio '68, Getty Images, Library of Congress

A year of tragedy and triumph

Remember the events of 1968 in national, state and Ohio State events, including national tragedies and collegiate triumphs.

The year began with the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and ended with three men orbiting the moon. Within those 12 months, leaders would be assassinated. The civil rights movement would swell to a mighty crescendo. Political fortunes would rise and fall. Thousands would protest discrimination, hate and war. Ohio State University was a community experiencing these same joys and pains, in the classroom, on the Oval and on the field and court. Revisit these extraordinary months in our timeline.

Jan. 30-31

​The North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong launch the Tet Offensive in Saigon and 150 other South Vietnam sites, causing a major downturn in the American public’s support for the war. ​

Anti-war demonstrators
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An anti-war demonstration in 1968

Library of Congress

March 22

Ohio State finishes third at the men’s Final Four in Los Angeles. Nine days later, President Lyndon Johnson shocks the nation by announcing he won’t seek re-election.

April 4

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated at age 39 by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee.

Coretta Scott King and Yolanda King
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Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr., and daughter Yolanda sit in a car as it departs for King’s funeral in Atlanta, Georgia.

Getty Images

April 5

Reacting to King’s death, Ohio State Assistant Professor of History David Green burns his draft card in class. The university investigates, and the Board of Trustees votes for his immediate discharge.

April 26

About 60 Black Student Union members meet Ohio State officials in the Administration Building to air grievances about an incident on a campus bus. White anti-war protesters also fill the lobby. The building is locked down for 10 hours.

Man pulling on an Administration Building door
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A man pulls on a door of what is today Bricker Hall. In 1968, it was known simply as the Administration Building, and it was the site of an April 26, 1968, protest that resulted in criminal charges against 34 students.

Makio '68

May 22

Two Ohio State students die in an early-morning fire on the 11th floor of Lincoln Tower.

May 31

A Franklin County, Ohio, grand jury indicts 34 Black Student Union members. Eight students are expelled for their roles in the April takeover of the Administration Building.

June 5

Sen. Robert Kennedy, 42, is shot in Los Angeles by Sirhan Sirhan moments after winning California’s Democratic presidential primary. He dies the next day.

U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy
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U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy on the campaign trail in 1968

Getty Images

Aug. 26–29

Violence erupts outside the Democratic National Convention as police club and tear-gas antiwar demonstrators on the streets of downtown Chicago. Amid the chaos, Hubert Humphrey is nominated for president.

Chicago police with a protester at the 1968 Democratic National Convention
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Chicago police officers detain a protester outside the Democratic National Convention in August 1968.

Getty Images

Oct. 12

The Ohio State football team earns national attention by upsetting No. 1 Purdue, 13–0. Ten days later, Coach Woody Hayes stumps for Richard Nixon at the Republican presidential nominee’s Columbus campaign stop.

Woody Hayes and Richard Nixon
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Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes clutches hands with Richard Nixon, candidate for U.S. president, in 1968. 

Makio ’68

Oct. 16

U.S. athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos bow their heads and raise their fists in the black power salute during their Olympic medal ceremony in Mexico City. They’re suspended from the U.S. track team for protesting.

Nov. 5

Nixon is elected president with 43.4 percent of the popular vote and a 0.7 percent edge over Humphrey. Ohio State students conduct Election Day demonstrations on the Oval.

Nov. 23

Ohio Stadium roars as the Buckeyes complete a 9–0 regular season with a 50–14 win over Michigan.

Dec. 24

The beleaguered nation rallies around Apollo 8 astronauts Jim Lovell, Bill Anders and Frank Borman as they become the first humans to orbit the moon.

Apollo 8 astronauts Jim Lovell, Bill Anders and Frank Borman
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Apollo 8 astronauts, left to right, Jim Lovell, Bill Anders and Frank Borman.

Getty Images

Jan. 1, 1969

Top-ranked Ohio State wins the Rose Bowl 27–16 over No. 2 USC and Heisman Trophy winner O.J. Simpson. The next day, Hayes leaves for Vietnam to talk football with American troops.

The Jan. 1, 1969, Rose Bowl between Ohio State University and the University of Southern California
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The Buckeyes play the University of Southern California in the Jan. 1, 1969, Rose Bowl.

Courtesy of University Archives