Jo Desha Lucas

Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

Jo Desha Lucas is the Professor at the University of Chicago Law School was has been there the longest.  He began teaching in 1953 as an assistant profesor and dean of students and became a full professor in 1961.  He is the only professor left at the law school who remembers the Law school's inhabitance on the "main" part of campus before our move South of the midway in 1959 and that is why I chose him as my interview subject.  

I thought Professor Lucas would have an interesting perspective about the fight between the University and the Woodlawn community over the University's southern expansion plans but on this point the interview was disappointing.  In the 1950s and 60s the University of Chicago sought to create a buffer zone between the University proper and low-income housing.  Using Urban-renewal funding, the University wanted to turn part of Woodlawn into a park and upper-income housing.  The people living in Woodlawn organized "The Woodlawn Organization" to oppose the University's plan - which did not provide replacement housing.  Going into the interview I expected that Professor Lucas would discuss the controversy between the University and the Woodlawn Organization.  Moreover, I thought the law school's move across the midway on to 60th street particularly salient since I thought it would only serve to antagonize a tense issue. 

 Professor Lucas surprised me on all fronts.  He did not recall any antagonism between the University and the Woodlawn community during this era.  He basically said that the University owned all of the land on 60th street and was only replacing buildings that noone wanted there anyway.  As far as more general expansion - he didn't seem to perceive any conflict, noting that the University had in fact established some buildings across 61st street only to sell them later.  The only problems he discussed were with respect to whether or not low-income housing should be erected.  He said that the University Community decidedly did not want this type of housing to be built near the University but didn't put this in the context of a larger Urban Renewal debate.  

This interview response while surprising may not be uncommon - memories are often tainted by the perspective of those who possess them.  With respect to gentrification, if Professor Lucas believed that the University's plan of gentrification was best for the Woodlawn community he may not have perceived their response and the resulting conflict.

 I also spoke briefly with Professor Lucas about student protests at the University of Chicago - he basically just said that the University President handled them well by not calling the police and waiting for them to end.  By doing this, Professor Lucas implied, the University of Chicago was able to avoid many of the police brutalities that other campuses sufferred. 

A recording of the interview is attached - it is on the interview summaries home page on the attachment tab.  It is split into 3 pieces (Lucas 1 is first, then 2...)  because of the size constraints of the wiki.  

Enter labels to add to this page:
Please wait 
Looking for a label? Just start typing.