Letter to the editor: May 4 author to donate e-books to KSU students

William A. Gordon

I have two announcements to make. First, “Four Dead in Ohio,” my book on the May 4, 1970 killings, is finally back in print. An updated e-book edition is now available and it includes a new preface that sorts out both the controversy and the significance of the “prepare to fire,” order discovered by the two audio forensics experts who examined the tape of the shootings. The new edition explains how the FBI, in disputing these experts’ findings, did an apples-to-oranges comparison by using less sophisticated software. The new edition also names two of the individuals who burned down the campus ROTC building two nights before the killings.

Second, I have decided to donate e-books to any Kent State student who is interested in learning more about May 4. Frankly, I do not know how many of today’s students are curious enough to take advantage of a free book. However, for those students who are interested, this an opportunity to read an expert’s take on why it happened and why there was such a fiasco in the courts.

To receive a book, students must send me their class schedule or student ID cards after redacting any information that might compromise their privacy. That proof of current enrollment can be e-mailed to me at [email protected] 

This offer is extended only to currently enrolled Kent State students; not faculty members or alumni who are not burdened by oppressive tuition and textbook costs. If there is enough interest in this offer, I will make this donation a permanent one, with books being given away year in and year out.

Please note: Although Four Dead has sometimes been referred to as a work of scholarship, it is not another stodgy account. In fact, one professor actually complained the book read too well! Nor is it a book about the sixties, radical politics, or student protest. Four Dead is primarily an investigative account that takes almost a true crime approach (more of a why-did-they-do-it than a whodunit). At times it even satirizes the most absurd aspects of the Kent Affair, including some of the sillier testimony sworn under oath; the pompous, self-appointed experts; the behind-the-scenes backstabbing and sabotage; and books like I Was There by the two Guardsmen who were not. Ultimately, I lampoon myself for being naive enough to write a book about a subject that most Americans would just as soon forget.

More importantly, the book tells the story of one of the greatest sustained injustices in modern American legal history. I am convinced that if Kent State had a law school instead of a sociology department, we might (underscore might) have had something resembling a half-way intelligent discussion about why the students were killed, what the true historical significance of May 4 was, and why everyone escaped punishment. As far as I am concerned, that sustained miscarriage of justice is one of the primary reasons to remember May 4.

Finally, it goes without saying that this donation is a private one. It does not prevent students from reading any other book about the tragedy, nor does it bar any other author from following my lead.  

I am not associated with any campus organization or any other entity having anything to do with May 4.

Editor’s Note: author is a 1973 graduate of Kent State and the author and/or editor of five books. He currently lives in Southern California.