Task Force celebrates life of May 4 victim

Bo Gemmell

While thousands crowded into Dix Stadium Saturday to cheer on the football team, about 30 people met in the Student Center to celebrate the life of May 4 victim Robert “Robby” Stamps.

Six of the seven remaining people wounded on May 4 joined students and friends of Stamps. Stamps died June 11 at age 57 from pneumonia caused by Lyme Disease in Tallahassee, Fla.

John Powers, sophomore pre-journalism major, said the football game might have taken away from the crowd, but most people who attend May 4 events do so regularly.

Powers, president of the May 4 Task Force, said Stamps was shot in the back while returning to his room in Leebrick Hall with a bag of pretzels.

“If the official recounting of why the guardsmen fired is accurate, the guardsmen must’ve been terrified of Robby and his pretzels,” he said.

Stamps and fellow survivors Alan Canfora and Dean Kahler founded the task force in 1975.

Canfora said he first met Stamps in the emergency room of Robinson Memorial Hospital after the shootings.

“He was very calm, very principled, and he knew that we were the victims of grave injustice,” Canfora said.

He said Stamps had strong political concerns and he “understood the abuse of power by the rich class.”

Canfora said he and the other wounded students grew close during the 14-week civil trial that followed the shootings.

“He shed his blood, he lived with us, he breathed with us,” Canfora said. “We got to know each other very well.”

Prior to the shootings, most of the victims never met.

“Other than Alan and I, none of us knew one another,” said Tom Grace, who was shot in the left heel. “It was quite random, so therefore, a bond in friendship really grew and emerged over time.”

Former student Bill Arthrell said he met Stamps, whom he called a huge Cleveland sports fan, a couple weeks before May 4. Arthrell, who also lived in Leebrick Hall, was involved in the “dog napalming protest” on April 22, 1970 with Stamps.

Angry crowds came to the protest after protesters spread rumors that they would napalm a dog during a protest. The protesters, who never intended to harm a dog, contrasted the crowd’s anger about the dog to its indifference toward the humans dying from napalm overseas.

To conclude the memorial, the speakers and audience members walked to the site where Stamps was wounded for a candlelight vigil.

Contact general assignment reporter Bo Gemmell at [email protected].