Gary Yerkey ’66 publishes two new historical books

Covers of books by Gary Yerkey '66

World Book Day, also known as World Book and Copyright Day and International Day of the Book, is being observed today, April 23, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote the enjoyment of books and reading.

Here at Ripon College, we celebrate one of our most prolific authors, Gary G. Yerkey ’66 of Washington, D.C. His most recent books, The Two Wars of Bruce C. Hopper: From WW I Bomber Pilot to WW II Spy and Troublemakers: On the March for Civil Rights from Selma to Black Power, are available on Amazon.

The first book tells the story of Bruce C. Hopper, whose wide and varied career included serving as a fighter and bomber pilot during World War I; a respected writer and lecturer specializing on the Soviet Union; an adviser to John F. Kennedy on his senior-year thesis in 1940, later published as “Why England Slept”; official who helped open in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1942 the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); the official historian of the Eighth U.S. Air Force; and a longtime faculty member at Harvard University.

The second is a revised edition of his earlier book, South to Selma, about the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in 1965, in which he, two other Ripon students and then-school chaplain Jerry Thompson participated.

“I have also added a substantial amount of material to the book on the rise of the Black Power movement, which followed the march,” Yerkey says.

It also now includes the account of two of the female Ripon students (Alexandra Corson, now Dujardin, and Nancy Cox, now Carter), who left Ripon with the group, supposedly bound for Selma, “but who were told they had to go back to Ripon when we got to D.C., so only Dick Grimsrud ’65, Noel Carota ’67, Jerry Thompson and I actually made it to Selma for the Selma-to-Montgomery march,” Yerkey says.

The new version also includes material on the “transition from non-violent civil disobedience to Black Power,” he says.

“I think that most writers write, first and foremost, about what interests them, with the hope that it may also interest others,” Yerkey says. “And I am no exception.

“I’ve written several books about journalists, especially foreign correspondents, because I have been one of them. I’ve written books and articles about the civil rights movement of the 1960s because I played a small role in it. I’ve written two books about airplane pilots because I was also one.”

He adds that he also has written about subjects that do not particularly resonate with his own experience but that he thinks “may shed light on a cause or issue that has not yet been adequately explored: violence against women in war zones; the lack of educational opportunities for children in Haiti; antisemitism in Sweden and what some Muslim activists have been doing to combat it.”

He says that for him, writing is about learning, “which is the main reason, I suppose, that I write at all and why I believe that books represent a source of, yes, enjoyment and diversion, but also of a way to help ensure an educated citizenry.”