Historical Content Note: The following material is reprinted from publications from throughout Fermilab's history. It should be read in its original historical context.

Letter from Robert Wilson to Otto Kerner

1301 West 22nd Street
Oak Brook, Illinois 60521

June 23, 1967

The Honorable Otto Kerner
The Governor of illinois
Springfield, Illinois

Dear Sir:

It was indeed an honor and a pleasure to meet you at Argonne National Laboratory when you addressed the physicists who are to build and use the 200 BeV accelerator at Weston, Illinois. As Director of the National Accelerator Laboratory I am deeply disappointed and worried about the future of the project because of the failure, so far, of the State of llinois to adopt any significant open housing legislation. The purpose of this letter is to acquaint you with the kind of difficulty that this is causing the project at a technical rather than at a political level.

As you may know, an initial staff of the National Accelerator Laboratory has established temporary headquarters at Oak Brook near Chicago. We are just starting the exciting but difficult task of designing the machine to be built at Weston. But this task is being made exceedingly difficult because of the rejection of open housing legislation. We are having great difficulty in attracting physicists to Illinois. This arises in part because the physicists themselves represent a wide variety of racial origins. Many of them, although welcome themselves in the area, feel that they would lose the respect of physicists elsewhere in moving to an area where some of their very respected friends and colleagues might be rejected. This is not an imaginary difficulty--I have already been turned down a number of times by people who have given the uncertainty due to this racial problem as their principal reason for not coming. Of course, the very real danger that the accelerator may not be authorized by Congress this year because Illinois has not implemented open housing is another reason that makes it almost impossible for a family man to decide to leave his present position.

On the assumption that the project will he authorized without open housing legislation, there will still remain difficulties. Both by conviction and by legal requirement, the Laboratory will have a strong Equal Opportunity Policy in employment. As Laboratory Director I am concerned for the welfare and housing of all the Laboratory employees regardless of race or color. Failure in this respect will have ramifications in establishing a successful Laboratory.

In accepting the position of Director of the Laboratory, I had made the assumption that the State of Illinois, in seeking this project, had made a decision to attract outstanding scientists to this state. I assumed that there existed an understanding of the value of such men in helping to establish in Illinois a climate of creativity and of intellectual excellence- -and furthermore, an understanding that such a climate tends to infect other disciplines in a manner so as to broaden the cultural satisfaction of the people of the state as well as to stimulate sophisticated technological activity. In view of recent developments those of us who have come to Illinois cannot feel that a very high value has, in fact, been placed on these objectives.

Illinois fought vigorously to be chosen as the site for this exciting new Laboratory. Even worse than not being chosen, would be to win the site but to have the project fail to achieve its potential, for this would jeopardize the placement of future projects of this kind in Illinois. For these reasons, and as one committed to this project as well as to Illinois, I most sincerely hope that the State of Illinois will take rapid action to alleviate the open housing situation.

Very truly yours,

Robert Rathbun Wilson
Director, National Accelerator Laboratory
RRW :jl
bc: Mr. Eugene Graves, 222 S. College, Springfield, Ill.
The Hon. W. Russell Arrington, State Senate, Springfield, Ill.