United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, Case # C70-544, C71-470, C70-859, C72-439, C70-816, C71-20, C71-471, C71-21, C71-22, C71-23, C71-25, C71-26, and C73-643, January 4 , 1979.
Prepared by Scott Larson, August 15, 1995; Updated by Penny White, July 2013.
.5 cubic feet (1 half-size record storage box and 2 oversize folders)
Physical Location: 12th floor
These court documents and exhibits were donated to the University Archives by Judge William K. Thomas with assistance from Irene Milan, Circuit Satellite Librarian for the U.S. District Court.
Judge William Kernahan Thomas is a graduate of Ohio State University (B.A., English, cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1932) and Ohio State University Law School (J.D., Order of the Coif, 1935). He was admitted to the bar in 1935 and practiced as a trial attorney from 1935 to 1944. From 1944 to 1946 he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve and U.S. Naval Armed Guard. Following his military service he resumed trial practice until 1950, when he was appointed as a Common Pleas Judge of Geauga County by Governor Frank J. Lausche. Judge Thomas served in this position from 1950 to 1953, when he was appointed by Governor Lausche as a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge where he served from 1953 to 1966. In 1965, he was nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson as United States District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio and the nomination was confirmed in 1966. Judge Thomas has been serving as a U.S. Senior District Judge since 1981.
Judge Thomas presided at several different trials involving significant issues originating from the events occurring on the Kent State University campus between May 1-4, 1970. The earliest Kent State case tried before him was Hammond v. Brown , 323 Federal Supplement 326 (1971); affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit , 450 Federal Supplement 480 (1971) in which he granted an injunction against prosecution to 25 defendants indicted by a special grand jury . The grand jury had charged the defendants with riot, incitement to riot, and arson but its report and assessment of blame was ruled to be beyond the scope of its authority and in violation of the rights of the accused.
In 1978 and early 1979, Judge Thomas was assigned the civil action which generated the documents within this collection. The suit was brought in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division by plaintiffs seeking compensatory and punative damages from the defendants, all of whom acted in their official and representative capacity as employees of the State of Ohio during the shootings on May 4th, 1970 at Kent State University. This civil suit was the result of the consolidation of actions filed by the following individual and groups of plaintiffs: Arthur Krause, administrator of the estate of Allison Krause; Sarah Scheuer, adminstratrix of the estate of Sandra Lee Scheuer; Elaine Miller Holstein, administratrix of the estate of Jeffrey Glenn Miller; Louis A. Schroeder, administrator of the estate of William K. Schroeder; Dean Kahler, Elaine Kahler, Joseph John Lewis, and Elizabeth Lewis; John R. Cleary and Robert Cleary; Donald Scott MacKenzie; Douglas Wrentmore; James D. Russell; Thomas M. Grace and Thomas V. Grace; Alan M. Canfora; and Robert F. Stamps and Floyd Stamps. All of the plaintiffs were united in seeking damages for injuries caused by the shootings. The trial began in October, 1978 and continued until January, 1979 when a settlement sum in the amount of $675,000 was found to be satisfactory and was mutually agreed upon by all parties. The settlement was apportioned between the plaintiffs with $50,000 for attorneys' fees and $25,000 for court costs set aside from the total.
This case represents a small portion of the litigation which arose from the shootings. The papers donated by Judge Thomas are primarily notes he prepared, significant court documents pertinent to the settlement reached between the State of Ohio and the parties, and plaintiffs' exhibits. The exhibits are maps of the Kent State University campus as it appeared on May 4th, 1970 and photographs taken that day by a variety of photographers. Digitized versions of these photographs have been removed from this website until the copyright status of the images can be determined. They are available for in-person research use.
The materials in this collection will be helpful to researchers studying the litigation stemming from student demonstrations of the era and the events surrounding May 4th, 1970. The photographs in the collection will be of particular interest to those seeking views of the campus immediately before and after the shootings.