Marilyn Kaemmerle

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Marilyn Kaemmerle, class of 1945, was a student at William & Mary from Jackson, Michigan. Kaemmerle was editor of The Flat Hat in 1945 when her editorial on race relations, "Lincoln's Job Half-Done," 7 February 1945 sparked a controversy that garnered attention beyond campus. The Flat Hat was temporarily suspended and Kaemmerle was removed as editor.

Newspapers reported that "few of the students have expressed agreement with" Kaemmerle, but students did oppose a censored publication. Kaemmerle advocated the complete integration of African Americans into William and Mary and the ability of intermarriage between African Americans and whites, which was outlawed in Virginia until 1967 when the Supreme Court declared the “Racial Integrity Act of 1924” unconstitutional. This editorial became nationwide news, sparking articles, editorials, and letters around the country. Kaemmerle was removed as editor and nearly expelled by the Board of Visitors, but was allowed to graduate upon the insistence of President John Pomfret.

Herman Recht, a former lawyer stationed at Camp Peary as a Navy yeoman, described meeting Kaemmerle and her sorority sisters in the aftermath of the Flat Hat incident in a letter to his wife, Esther.

An apology for the incident was issued by the Board of Visitors to Kaemmerle in the 1980s. She died in 2001.

Flat Hat editor Jerry Hyman was involved in a similar incident, but one that drew less attention earlier in the 1940s.


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