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Sheriff C. H. Wright refused to talk with me about him: “I’ve had lots of experiences with him, and they’ve all been bad.” Another who declined was Tom Abraham, civic leader and Republican, who said he didn’t “want to create any problems.” His brother, though, Malouf Abraham, former Republican state legislator, has been a friend of Ezzell’s for a long time. Ezzell’s attack on the National Guardsmen at Kent State caused his only standing difference with Charles Morehead, senior vice president of High Plains Natural Gas Co. and Democratic chairman for Hemphill County. “He probably got as angry with me as he’s ever been in his life,” Morehead said. A burly, balding man of 40, Morehead has known and admired Ezzell nearly all his life. He is sure Ezzell has made Canadian less conservative than it would otherwise have been, and he marvels at the abuse he has taken in doing so. “He’s the toughest little man I’ve ever known,” he said. “If he thought God was wrong, he’d take him on.” \(Morehead’s “little” was affectionate; Ezzell, though None of this supports Ezzell’s assertion that he has mellowed editorially, and neither did my own reading of hundreds of his editorials and columns, from the early as well as the current stages of his editorship. He was in his wellestablished pattern when, not long after Reagan’s inauguration, he put the headline See Ronnie Read on an editorial and went on in this vein: The spectacle of the President of the United States appearing on national television to support his tax program with graphs and arguments obviously pitched to the lowest common denominator of our national intelligence was appalling and dismaying. And not long ago, in a widely reprinted editorial headed “Be angry, Americans!” he said: We believe that no goVernment which gives a higher priority to military power than it gives to the welfare of its own people can long endure, or be endured. The warning tone is the same that Ezzell characteristically used, from a different set of convictions, before his conversion. During the presidential race between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon in 1960, he predicted that whichever candidate won, he would “guide us down the road toward a socialist state.” In 1952, supporting 10 MAY 7, 1982 Eisenhower for president, he wrote, “We want a change from the strong suspicion that important departments in our Federal government are infiltrated with Communists.” Though he did not like Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his allegations of communist infiltration in Washington, he rarely deviated from the conservative line in the forties and fifties, and starting with Eisenhower’s first campaign he was Republican, too. His children changed him, he says. It’s true that two of the six Ezzell children were harshly treated at school during the late sixties and early seventies because administrators identified them with the protest movement. Plenty of parents, in those times, must have reconsidered their world-outlook after seeing it turned savagely against their own children. And all the Ezzell children, their father says, were activists. “I had to start seeing things from a different viewpoint,” he told me. “I had to admit they were right about a lot of these things.” But I suspect that the John Birch episode had already started his drift toward the same conclusions. On March 9, 1961, a tag on page one of the Record said The John Birch Society An American Dictatorship and a spread of editorials and stories about the society occupied pages two and three. In one of the first news reports or commentaries on the subject . in the Southwest, Ezzell said Robert Welch, the founder of the society, wanted Americans to “become subversive, go underground, and undermine the government.” An editorial said that if it was true that Americans must decide between the domination of Communists and that of the John Birch Society, “we see nothing much to choose.” The stories and comments, which resulted from the editor’s having sat, stunned and frightened, through a showing of a Welch film, produced hundreds of responses. Most were on the side of the Record, Ezzell . said. The one he found the most gratifying was that of the Texas Council of Churches, which circulated 10,000 copies of the Birch pages and gave him its Certificate of Appreciation. The certificate occupies the most prominent spot on the walls of the Record among the many other awards Ezzell has won, including six firsts from the Texas Press Association for editorials and four for the paper as a whole. Whether or not the Birch stories and their reception were the cause, Ezzell’s editorial opinions begin to show a gradual change just at this time. By 1964, the editorials are referring to “us Democrats.” Ezzell was already deep into the fight against the Vietnam War and against the squelchers of protests before a crisis at the high school in the spring of 1971 made him despair almost to the point of leaving Canadian. His most immediate adversary in the crisis was Larry Sanders, principal of Canadian High School, a sample of whose style may be seen in a memo he sent to teachers. In the memo, reproduced in the Record, Sanders had this, in part, to say about long hair and those who wore it: Most reasons given and indic ations seen prove femininity on the part of the boys . . . Organizations long associated with this type of expression include: Pachuco gangs, Beatniks, Hippies, SDS, Communists, Dope Pushers, Per verts of All Kinds, Black Panthers, Reactionary Groups of all kinds. Ezzell said in an editorial that associating all long-haired boys with such causes and traits was “in itself a reckless, ugly libel and unbecoming a teacher, principal or gentleman.” \(Sanders, who is still with the school system though not now a principal, is another of the Canadian residents who declined to talk with me David Ezzell was one of the longhaired boys, though his father says he did conform just to the hair code, getting a trim precisely off the eyes, over the ears, above the collar. Laurie Ezzell had been sent home on Moratorium Day, when she and two other senior girls made up the entire black-armbandwearing element of the student body. Ezzell thinks it was on account of his confrontations with the school trustees over the armband and hair-code issues that David’s bare conformity was found unacceptable: “I think David was getting the fallout from their disagreement with me,” he said. At any rate, Sanders ordered David to get out and not to come back until he had had his hair tapered in back a requirement not in the regulations, Ezzell said. David’s parents wrote an editorial saying that as a family “we do not choose to comply” with the order and that they were going to have to decide whether to stay in Canadian or to sell or close the Record and leave town. Friends put pressure on the Ezzells not to publish the statement. It was deadline; Ezzell was not sure, so deeply and personally involved, that he could judge reasonably; he yielded. Readers who turned to see, as the town likes to say, “whose turn it is this week,” found a blank editorial page. By the next week, the Record could