OGDEN -- James Hurst remembers the days when people would drive to Ogden's 25th Street for the "live entertainment," to watch strutting prostitutes, tripping drunks and occasional fist, knife or gun fights that would tumble out of bars and into the road.
"It was considered a cheap date," said Hurst, a higher education expert, of that era.
Linda Oda, a Weber State professor emeritus in teacher education, remembers living as a child in that downtown area, the only place in Ogden where people of Japanese descent, like her, were accepted, and the place from which all Japanese parents pushed their offspring to escape.
James H. Gillespie, Jr., an African American Ogden native retired from Utah law enforcement and the Department of Corrections, recalled his year on the Ogden Police Force, and his effort to stop dispatchers from using "the 'N' word."
All three on Tuesday spoke at the Allen Holmes Diversity Symposium, named for a Weber State basketball star who in 1959 led the college to the National Junior College All American Championship, and who fostered racial acceptance simply by being a warm and friendly black role model to his fellow students.
Also speaking was Eulogio Alejandre, coordinator of WSU's Student2Student program, who told of his experience as a member of one of very few Mexican families in Ogden, back when he arrived as a child.
The theme of the symposium was "Ogden's History: Where We Were, Where We Are, Where We Are Going."
Gillespie talked of the Ogden Mall, now gone, which he said financially destroyed 30 locally owned businesses, owned by black people and white. All the black-owned businesses, except one barbershop, were on the same side of the street, he noted.
Oda talked about her father's murder by a stranger, and running the family's grocery after her mother's stroke, while also attending classes at Weber State.
"I tried to act normal," she said. "We all tried to act normal, but these kind of tragedies had an impact on the community."
Another tragedy was the 1963 fatal shooting of Marshall H. White, a black police officer, for whom the Marshall White Center is named. OPD detective sergeant White was shot by a juvenile who had broken into a Quincy Street home.
"Marshall White thought he could talk the kid out," Gillespie said. "His death had a huge impact on the community."
But more polarizing to Ogden was the 1974 Hi-Fi murders. Five people were held hostage and tortured during an armed robbery at the Hi-Fi Shop. All were forced to drink drain cleaner, one had a pen stomped into his ear, and a teen girl was repeatedly raped before being shot in the head. Only two victims survived, with severe injuries. Three Air Force airman, all black men, were convicted, and two got the death penalty.
"The Hi-Fi murders set back all the black progress that had been made," Hurst recalled.
Alejandre arrived in Utah with his parents as an undocumented alien, he said, and kept a low profile while pursuing his lifelong dream of becoming an educator. He recalled his classes at Ogden High School being segregated simply because, for example, some math classes were designated for English as a Second Language (ESL) math classes, and others were specifically non ELS.
Alejandre, who as a young adult gained legal citizenship, said once he became a teacher at Ogden High, he insisted the ESL class and the Spanish language class be combined, which helped both groups and fostering friendships unlikely to have formed without the shared-class experience.
Hurst, the only white person on the panel, recalled his early interactions with a classmate of Japanese descent. The boy and his family had just been released after three years in the Topaz interment camp, at which Americans of Japanese descent were kept war due to fears they might assist WWII Japanese invaders.
Hurst and the student went on to become lifelong friends, but it took being assigned as lab partners for Hurst to see the young man as simply another human.
"He turned from being a 'Jap' to being a friend," Hurst recalled. "The propaganda melted away, and we realized the humanness of each other."
Hurst said more interaction between people of different races would increase understanding and learning, and he suggested steps taken to encourage interaction would help ease racial tensions. Oda suggested placing people of minority races in positions of authority, such as school administration, would help young people see them as positive role models.
Adrienne Gillespie Andrews, WSU's special assistant to the president for diversity and coordinator of the Center for Diversity & Unity, moderated the panel, on which her father, James, served.
Andrews got the final word.
"I will encourage you with a call to action," she said. "Make it incumbent on yourself to talk to somebody who's different than you are, to make somebody feel welcome who seems to be on the outside. Make it your responsibility to be the friend, to be the change that you want to feel."
Contact reporter Nancy Van Valkenburg at 801-625-4275 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @S_ENancyVanV.