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Letter from Kingman Brewster to Herbert S. MacDonald, April 25, 1970.
Kingman Brewster Papers. Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.

Bharat Ayyar ’10, Kingman Brewster’s Leadership

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There were times when the president’s convictions shocked the public at large. On April 23, 1970, Brewster made a statement to the Yale faculty that would follow him for life: “I am appalled and ashamed that things should have come to such a pass in this country that I am skeptical of the ability of black revolutionaries to achieve a fair trial anywhere in the United States.” The remark, made one week before the tumultuous May Day protests of the Black Panther trials, was decried in editorials and speeches across the country. Letters poured into the president’s office. Vice President Spiro Agnew called for Brewster’s resignation.

Here, Brewster apologizes to his good friend, future Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Herbert MacDonald, not for the remark, but for the way it was received and consequently misinterpreted. The letter was copied, modified and sent to each critic of the speech, after being modified slightly. Years later MacDonald would write back to say that Brewster had been right.