Wednesday November 10, 2010 | The “Inquisition”

November 8, 2010 at 10:26 am | Posted in Coming Up | 27 Comments

In 1968 a few young men at East Mecklenburg High School began publishing a magazine out of a shed in one of their backyards. They called it the Inquisition and those boys made what some folks say is history. The liberal content of the paper – promoting civil rights, opposing the Vietnam War and more – caught the attention, and the ire of much of Charlotte’s authority figures. What happened next became fodder for legend. It was the first case in America where the free press and the first amendment came in conflict with simple zoning laws. Our guests today argue that the court case involving the Inquisition and its editors help blaze a trail for the entire southern underground press movement. We talk with two of the original editors of Inquisition and a writer researching their story.

Suzanne Sink
– English Instructor, Author of an essay on the Inquisition story
Lynwood Sawyer – Former Editor/Writer, Inquisition
Russell Schwarz – Former Editor/Writer, Inquisition

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  1. An interesting program and interview that was seriously hindered by the inclusion of guest Suzanne Sink. Suzanne constantly attempted to, and often succeeded in, speaking over the other guests and injecting her knowledge and opinion into every portion of the conversation. Lynwood Sawyer and Russell Schwarz were actually a part of creating Inquisition, while Suzanne sonly studied it after the fact. From the program, I understand that she helped to bring this conversation to Charlotte Talks, but it became quite annoying and frustrating to hear her overriding and attempting to dominate the conversation, even going so far as to answer questions obviously directed at the other two guests regarding their personal lives, events and intentions at the time.

  2. Mike:

    This publication was pre Watergate at the height of Vietnam & Nixon. J Edgar Hoover was still director of the FBI. Did these folks get any knocks at the door in the middle of the night or were they followed? Have they checked to see if they have FBI files?

  3. I completely agree with anonymous. However, I would love to read Suzanne Sink’s paper. Anyway to get a link to it?

    Does anyone know where the Hendrix footage is?

    I’m curious to know the political positions of the writers today.

    • I just added a link to Suzanne’s paper. You can find it in this article. She was kind enough to share it with us. There is also a link to the last issue of “Inquisition” with a Hendrix interview. /Erin

  4. Listening to the enthusiasm that Lynwood and Russell still have for this thing is beautiful. The memories of the Inquisition crew are vividly enjoyable. They never accepted “can’t”, and always questioned “authority”. I’m sure, that hasn’t changed with these two.

  5. I was startled when Ms. Sink said how things are “better now” since there is “no war or draft.” How can things be “better now” when she even doubts current high school students could do an equivalent original newspaper? Things are not “better now” because, as one of the 60ish former editors said, you can’t say this stuff if you’re an adult who has to keep a job. Your employer will likely not allow free speech even away from work. So is thinking originally and independently, and sharing your thoughts publicly any easier now? I don’t think so. Last week I was denied access to comment at a public radio comment site because an underwriter objected to my earlier comment. Maybe I slandered a real citizen (corporation). No, things are not so good now, because we still pay for illegal wars that ruin and kill people. We have a recession with high joblessness and wages are way down compared to the costs of living. The wealth gap is at an all time American high, worse than a banana republic and accelerating. Maybe the 5 or 6 editors were somewhat like me, with families having wealth, and they have not even yet realized how unjust our country can be, and what significance their magazine had. By the way, their art seems to resemble the pre-grunge of the Robert Crumb school more than the psychedelic. Yeah, they “took a trip” away from reality, and they are still on it.

  6. Among the many good things in Suzanne’s paper, which I have read, is that she tells many stories based on records that no one at The Inquisition was aware of at the time. Some comments by Judge Ervin, a rich interview with Lawyer Daley, etc.
    Hoover’s folks by this time often used local law enforcement to do the ground work — more difficult to get what would become FOIA released information that way and the Bureau was even then generally short staffed. Only one agent on the ground between UNC and Duke for most of that period as far as anyone can tell, for example.
    The secret of the Hendrix tapes likely died with Rohn Parsons. He did mention them to me more than once but I think he wasn’t sure what the heck had happened to them either.
    +1 on Tjones’ comments on the enthusiasm amongst the interviewees — including Suzanne — that enthusiasm is/was contagious as the callers reflected.

    • would love a link to Suzanne’s paper. No, kids today are not the better off. its all about blogs, tweets and Facebook posing. we still have war and no one questions the authorities (not even reporters). the drum beat to war, “WMD’s”, Freedom Fries served in the Pentagon, and mission accomplished at San Diego Bay, May 2003. i feel sorry for kids growing up in our Christian nation where Scooter Libbey and the like lead us to create a state where Iraqi Christians are now the target of persecution. Makes one wonder… .

  7. Jim Thompson of Rock Hill. You exhibit a great deal of insight and wisdom at Charlotte Talks and at On Point too, I believe. When you say these older men may have generated FBI dossiers, or other covert records, you are probably correct. Imagine if they were among the first dissidents picked up under Marshall law (That’s within Presidential powers)in a national emergency. When you look at that last “Inquisition” edition Mike and staff have provided, do you Jim see anything radical enough to warrant federal action? (I don’t.) Maybe it’s just the fact of “moxey” that brings oligarchal wrath upon activists. Contact me to discuss this in person Mr.Thompson ( ). I’ll treat you at Panera. How wonderful to meet a good mind.

  8. In response to Anonymous, Susan did not step on our lines, we actively encouraged her to speak up, as she has done at least a Ph.D.’s worth of research (and probably more) and by this point knows a tremendous amount that we have forgotten. She is a tremendously perceptive and meticulous scholar and has recognized years before anyone else that what was going on in Charlotte during those tumultous years serves as a excellent lens on what was going on the South during that hugely transitional period in American history (and to a lesser degree in America itself). All of us remaining of the Inquistion collabria (Rohn Parsons, who did the Hendrix interview, unfortunately passed away earlier this year, and we haven’t been able to locate Gary Rice, the other interviewer) are incredibly fortunate and thankful that Suzanne brought this to the world’s attention and made us look at our youthful misadventures in a whole new light and able to articulate it, often in ways that we cannot. We also were amazed at how enagaging and knowledgeable the host, Mike Collins, and his associate, Tim Ross, were and how thoroughly they had done their homework. P.S. As Russell said prior to the interview, “I don’t care about my checkered past. I’m more concerned about my checkered future!” Many, many thanks to all those at WFAE who made this possible, all those who tuned in and all those who phoned in. It was so much fun!

    • While I respect Mr. Sawyers comment and appreciation for Ms. Sink’s work on the subject, and have know doubt as to her scholarly abilities, I have to agree with the comment submitted by “anonymous”. As a listener, I do not have the benefit of knowing the working relationship of the guests; so, while you may have appreciated her input at the time, it came across as overzealousness. For me, it became very distracting as she kept trying to finish sentences for the other guests. Why bother having the participants in the events in the room when their not “allowed” to speak?

      • In listening back to the program I can agree with the criticisms and would simply like to say that my intentions were not to prevent those directly involved from participating. I apologize to the listeners who would have been better served to hear more from Lynwood and Russell. It was a mistake of eagerness and inexperience, truly not of any belief in a superiority of my own interpretations. I will try to listen more and talk less in the future.

  9. As a member of that East Meck class of ’69, I suppose that my impression comes with a different level of background knowledge and familiarity, but I have to say that I thought Suzanne Sink was terrific. She is bright, articulate and enthusiatic about her research in an undertaking which could not have been easy. As a professor and scholar, she was able to give a historical perspective based on both research and as a member of a younger generation. Throughout the interview, I thought she interjected footnotes or factually validated comments by Russell & Lynwood. It was Suzanne who sparked many of my memories, including those of my dad, who was one of those parents at odds with “liberal young people.” My thanks to Suzanne, for posting the research paper, for resurrecting interest and, in a roundabout way, for rekindling some old friendships in the process. The host, Mike Collins, was super. I truly enjoyed every minute of this broadcast.

  10. Just listened to the podcast during lunch. It cheered up a rather boring day before I start teaching again after lunch. I wish someone back then would have thought to bottle your youthful energy and curiosity so I could sprinkle it in class! ttfn

  11. I don’t know if you will remember me. I was good friends with Paul Iacone (Iacono) and Richard Nagel and others … class of 72. I got a chance to here your WFAE interview and WOW … what a bunch of memories came flooding back. While the whole counter-culture influenced my life, the Inquisition had to be one of the key focal points! Among other things, it pointed me in the direction of studying the law, working on civil rights, and trying to make the world a better place. Indirectly, it may have had an influence on my daughter who, while having probably never heard of the Inquisition, got some social consciousness from me and is now carrying on the cause as a multimedia journalist with the Washington Post (where, in 3 years, she has worked with or received awards from 3 US presidents, the Pope, Richard Gere, Tony Blair … and been nominated for 3 Emmys). Who knows if any of that would have happened, but for the work you guys did 🙂 If you get a free minute, google “Whitney Shefte” and you will see some of her videos.
    Thanks for everything … you made the world a better place!!!!!

    • Hi Bill! I remember this paper, the times and ALL of my old friends from East. I was at the Jimi concert with this group that night. Just incredible!! Congrats to Whitney on all of her accomplishments. It seems that our children are continuing our light. We all went through so much together in those days. Truly remarkable memories made with some most remarkable young friends. I have told these stories to my son who begins study for his masters in music this fall at Manhattan School of Music.

  12. If anyone is interested in scans, etc. several years ago I picked up Volume 1, Issue 6 of the Inquisition at a now defunct Fort Mill antiques shop.

    • Marc, Hi, I would love so much to have a copy if there is still any possible way you could email it to me or I would be happy to pay for you to mail it to me. If you see this please email me at I still have copies somewhere at my folk’s house…just finding them is gonna be tricky(lol)…Thanks so much. PEACE

      • Hello, I have pdf scans of all nine issues. They are bulky files, but can be sent in several emails. I am currently working toward building an electronic database. Also, a complete set has been since donated to UNC-Charlotte and can be viewed in the rare books archive by anyone interested.

  13. […] Charlotte Talks says: […]

  14. This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that helped me. Many thanks!

  15. Hi all,

    Full scans of Inquisition are online –


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