Wilmette was not immune to the tensions of the turbulent Sixties. According to Vernon Squires, who served as Village Trustee (75-78), Village President (81-89), and campaign manager for the Harmony Party in '69, the Vietnam War and other events of the Sixties contributed to a more impassioned political atmosphere in Wilmette. There was also a feeling of the "old guard" versus the "new guard." Some in the Village government opposed change whereas others were "impatient with the pace of social progress."
Prior to 1969, Wilmette elected its President, Trustees, Park District Comissioners, and Library Directors through a caucus system which ultimately formed the Harmony Party. However, after a tense 1969 Harmony Convention filled with what Thelma Brook Simon said was "smoldering dialogue" from both "ultra liberals and ultra conservatives," several candidates left the Harmony Party to form the United Party, a more conservative group.
Jim Schwietert, presidential candidate from the United Party, and Harold Webb, the presidential nominee from the Harmony Party, would spend the next 10 months locked in an intense political and then legal battle. Simon, Wilmette Trustee from 1961 to 1969, has remarked that what followed was "the most bitter political battle in Wilmette's history, with indiscriminate use of incendiary labels: 'fascist,' 'commie,' '****** lover,' and the red herring that the Harmony Party advocated 'low cost housing.'" After the first election was declared invalid, with a second election due to take place, mudslinging, personal attacks, and race and religious schisms created an even more intense campaign. It would take years for Wilmette to cool down after this hot election.
This exhibit showcases documents and objects from the '69 election, including campaign buttons and flyers, letters, photos, newspaper articles, and more.