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Nashville, Hamilton County win regional championships. Sports, Page C1. 

Inside Bucky Fuller’s FBI file: Agents interviewed him in Carbondale
Fuller’s FBI file reveals the agency surveilled him for decades, monitored his contacts with a KGB employee, and even considered asking him for information on an unidentified SIU student, whom the bureau investigated in 1968.

CARBONDALE — On Sept. 15, 1965, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Springfield office came to Carbondale to interview Buckminster Fuller inside his futuristic dome home on Forest Avenue.

“Fuller is a 69 year old lecturer, designer, author and world traveler,” their report reads. “He is connected with Southern Illinois University as a research professor. He has been in contact with [REDACTED] a KGB employee.”

Bucky’s FBI file, first made public by technology news website Gizmodo, reveals the Bureau began watching Fuller in the late 1940s, and first interviewed him in 1951.

The Bureau’s interest intensified in the 1960s, as Fuller became internationally known for his iconic geodesic domes, and other inventions, like his three-wheeled Dymaxion car, a teardrop-shaped vehicle that he imagined would one day fly and drive.

Blast from the past: Taking a ride in Bucky Fuller's Dymaxion car

A replica of a 1933 Dymaxion automobile, designed by noted architect Buckminster Fuller, was on hand at Fuller's geodesic dome home in Carbondale on Friday afternoon. Visitors were able to go for a ride in the front-wheel drive, rear-wheel steering vehicle. This replica is from the Lane Automotive Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.

Fuller traveled all around the world, speaking to architectural societies and leading construction projects. He supplied domes to the U.S. military, and built a massive “Biosphere” for the World Fair in Montreal, Canada. He appeared on the cover of Time Magazine.

Meanwhile, he was employed as a research professor at SIU, a unique, celebrity role that offered him ample time to travel and lecture.

It was Fuller’s visits to the Soviet Union that recaptured the interest of the FBI in the mid-1960s. He visited St. Petersburg in August of 1964, then met with President Lyndon Johnson at the White House only months later.

By 1965, the FBI was discussing how to interview Fuller without “divulging knowledge of his association with Soviet nationals,” documents show.

It was in the middle of the Cold War, and the fear of spies and subversives cast a pall of suspicion on any contact with the Soviet Union.

When agents finally interviewed Bucky at his home in Carbondale, it appears he assuaged their concerns about his Russian contacts.

He was forthcoming about his meetings with Soviet officials at conferences and symposiums around the world, and assured the agents he had “never been approached by anyone from the USSR or any other country to divulge anything concerning the work performed by him for the United States Government,” the report reads.

He admitted contact with the subjects of other FBI investigations, whose names appear redacted in the reports. In one case, a meeting with a Russian subject was only “playing politics,” Fuller said, to gain support for his work.

By the end of Fuller’s interview, it appears he had talked the agents’ ears off, describing his vision of a “geosocial revolution ... where the world’s vast resources are used for the betterment of man.”

That fits with the reputation of man who once talked for six hours straight at an SIUC symposium, said Jon Davey, an SIUC architecture professor who is leading efforts to restore and preserve Bucky’s Dome Home in Carbondale.

Davey wasn’t aware of Fuller’s FBI file, he told the Southern on Wednesday, but he wasn’t surprised to learn of it.

By the mid-1960s, Fuller’s dome was “incorrectly identified as a part of the counterculture,” Davey said.

He traces that association to Drop City, an artist commune that formed in southern Colorado in 1965. It became a gathering place for hippies, and drew national media attention. And its occupants, inspired by Fuller, lived in domes.

“After a while the bikers and the druggies took it over and it became a drug haven, and so the dome became associated with drugs,” Davey explained.

Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, a colorful figure in his own right, fixated on such counterculture movements, often using the threat of communism to drum up support and justification for unfounded FBI investigations.

Under Hoover, the FBI monitored many cultural icons, from Martin Luther King Jr. to physicist Richard Feynman and John Lennon.

"Hoover hated Frank Lloyd Wright," Davey said. "And in a similar fashion, Bucky brought together counterculture kids."

Bucky Fuller’s FBI file mostly peters out after the 1965 FBI interview in Carbondale.

But it ends with an intriguing tidbit.

In 1968, the bureau investigated an SIU student, whose name is redacted in Fuller’s file. The internal documents reveal agents considered asking Bucky to provide information on the student, but decided not to.

That student’s identity remains unknown, according to an article about Fuller’s file posted on the SIUC Police website.

More information could be released in future years, according to reporter Matt Novak, who first published Fuller's file. Novak's initial Freedom of Information Act request yielded just 44 of the 69 pages of documents that the FBI has on Bucky.



top story
Bar seeking buyer: Carbondale's Hangar 9 is on the market

CARBONDALE — For the right price, Sally Carter is willing the pass the torch.

The matriarch of Hangar 9, one of Carbondale’s best known nightlife spots, is ready to hang up her hat after more than 30 years at the bar. She made the announcement early Thursday morning on Facebook.

“I am 63 years old, and it is time for some younger ideas to take on the management of this iconic staple on the Strip in Carbondale,” Carter wrote on her Facebook event.

She went on to say that the bar has been good to her and could do the same for the new owner.

“Hangar has been a good earner. It has afforded me a nice life style over the years,” she wrote.

Carter took over the operation in 1980 and has been a vocal advocate for businesses on the Strip. She fought over the years to lower the age restriction for bar entrance — she wanted it to be 18, but has said she settled for 19.

She also was a driving force behind fighting the city’s regulation that Hangar and other bars on the Strip close around Halloween because of raucous partying and civil unrest during previous celebrations.

When reached by phone Thursday, Carter said she has had this decision on her mind for a little while. Her husband, James Duke, has an advancing case of dementia that Carter said is now her priority.

“I don’t have time to do much more than care for my husband,” she said.

Looking back, Carter said she should have considered shutting down eight years ago after the original Hangar 9 building collapsed under the weight of snow and ice after a big storm. She said it wasn’t long after that her husband began needing care.

Further reflecting on her legacy in Carbondale, Carter said she hopes to see the city continue down what she called “the right track.” She hopes to see Southern Illinois University grow and for Carbondale to continue to embrace its roots as a party town.

She also said she looks forward to seeing what new blood will do to her business and downtown. Carter also said she hasn’t counted out getting more involved with the city in the future.

“I can see down the road becoming more involved in the city, maybe running for Council — at least serving on committees again,” Carter said.

Carter wrote on Facebook that she has operation of the bar “down to a science” and added that because of this the workload is minimal for her. She said she has no problem passing on this trove of knowledge to the new owner.

“I would be willing to stay on to teach a new owner all that I know,” she wrote.

There was no price listed in her notice, but it did say the sale was for both the real estate and the business.

Carter said she doesn't have a deadline for the sale and doesn't have plans to close if a buyer doesn't come along soon.

breakingtop story
Senate Democrats send minimum wage bill to House

SPRINGFIELD — A bill to raise Illinois’ minimum wage passed the state Senate on partisan lines Thursday after Gov. J.B. Pritzker made a personal appeal to Democratic lawmakers at a private caucus prior to the vote.

Senate Bill 1 received only Democratic votes as it passed by a 39-18 margin, putting the onus on the Illinois House to get the bill to Pritzker’s desk by his requested deadline of Feb. 20, when he is scheduled to give his budget address.

While no Republicans voted for the bill — and several spoke against it on the floor citing concerns about businesses leaving the state, unforeseen costs on schools and universities, and the potential for job loss for low-wage employees — Pritzker said conservative voices helped shape the legislation.

“I talked personally with several senators to make sure their ideas were incorporated. I talked with many of the interest groups that represent businesses, and Republican interests, to incorporate those into the bill,” Pritzker said during a news conference in his office at which no elected Republicans were present.

Interest groups are expected to continue to lobby for changes when the bill is heard in the House — particularly for an amendment to include a regional rollout of the minimum wage for lower rates downstate. But Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat and SB1’s House sponsor, said as far as he’s concerned, his chamber should approve the current Senate version.

“I feel very confident that we will pass Senate Bill 1 as the Senate passed it,” Guzzardi said. “I don’t see the need for us to make any further changes to the legislation right here before us.”

Current details

If approved as is, the minimum wage will be phased in over six years, starting with an increase from $8.25 to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2020, before increasing to $10 on July 1, 2020, and $11 on Jan. 1, 2021. After that, it would increase by $1 every year until it hits $15 in 2025.

Capitol News Illinois 

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, speaks during a news conference Thursday in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office following the Senate’s vote to approve Senate Bill 1, which raises the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour over a 6-year period. Lightford was the bill’s Senate sponsor.

Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat and the bill’s Senate sponsor, said compromise is reflected in the six-year rollout and in a small business tax credit which won’t affect Chicago businesses until the wage exceeds Chicago’s minimum, which is currently $12.

The tax credit is available to businesses with fewer than 50 “full-time equivalent” employees, which means businesses that pay less than 2,000 employee hours in a one-week period.

The credit would start at 25 percent of the difference between the current minimum wage and an employee’s wage in the final quarter of the previous calendar year. It would decrease by 4 percent each year until it hits 5 percent in the final two years.

Employers with 2,000 or fewer employee hours will be able to take advantage of the credit for 7 years, while employees with 200 or fewer employee hours will be able to take advantage of the credit for 8 years.

Republican concerns

But Senate Republicans said those assurances are not enough for businesses, and the wages would force property tax hikes by increasing costs for K-12 schools, and will lead to greater requests for state appropriations from colleges and universities.

Sen. Jason Barickman, a Bloomington Republican, said he was told by Illinois State University the bill would cost $600,000 in year one alone due to the campus’s employment of 5,000 to 6,000 student employees.

“That same story, I believe, is going to be told by countless community colleges and four-year institutions around our state,” Barickman said. “We all know they are going to come here and ask Illinois for more money. They were going to do that before this proposal. Now they are going to have to ask for even more.”

Sen. Chapin Rose, a Mahomet Republican, said when fully implemented, the wage increase would represent a 17 percent cut to the general revenue fund for Eastern Illinois University, and a 12 percent cost for University of Illinois systemwide, with a $57 million effect on the Champaign-Urbana campus alone.

But Pritzker said during his news conference that higher wages for people in college towns increases economic activity, and Lightford said universities are in poor financial situations as a residual effect of a budget impasse presided over by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Sen. Dale Fowler, a Harrisburg Republican, said he surveyed about 15 companies from his district and invariably heard three words: “layoffs, closures and cutbacks.”

“While I can recognize efforts to provide more for the wage earners of this state, I cannot support a measure that has the potential for widespread harm to the business sector of Southern Illinois,” Fowler said in a news release. “I’ve heard from several employers across the region and the response has been, overwhelmingly, against this increase. Highlighting the raise in annual labor costs, the anticipated layoffs and the increase in cost of living for our residents, the reality is Senate Bill 0001 is shortsighted and only adds to the already high-costs of doing business in Illinois.”

Sen. Dale Righter, a Mattoon Republican, said he feared businesses in his district would move across state lines to Indiana, which has a lower minimum wage than Illinois’ current one.

Rose said several school districts in his district said they would have to cut employees or aids or pass expenses on to families with raised fees.

“If people think this is going to be, somehow, magic beans for central Illinois, it’s not,” he said. “There’s going to be real repercussions.”

A ‘moral issue’

Democratic senators, including Toi Hutchinson of Olympia Fields, said the vote was a moral one and $8.25 is a poverty wage.

“In 2019, if you have ever said nobody that works full time should ever live in poverty, today is your day to do something about it.

"Don’t tell me what you believe in. Show me,” she said.

Lightford, who has sponsored four minimum wage bills since 2010, painted the vote as a moral one too, while emphasizing that business interests were part of conversations throughout.

“The business credit is important because Democrats care about business too,” she said. “A $15 minimum wage increase actually creates economic activity. It decreases the reliance on government.”

Capitol News Illinois 

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, speaks during a news conference Thursday in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office following the Senate’s vote to approve Senate Bill 1, which raises the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour over a 6-year period. Guzzardi is the bill’s House sponsor.

As an olive branch to the Illinois Restaurant Association, which became a proponent of the bill, a tip-credit will remain in the law. It allows employers to pay 60 percent of the minimum wage to tipped employees.

It will be accompanied by provisions to guard against wage theft, including increasing the amount that can be recovered when wages are underpaid.

A balanced budget?

Pritzker’s office anticipated yearly increases to the state budget from $82 million to $270 million until the cost is about $1.1 billion each year by the time the wage hits $15 in 2025. This is because the bill accounts for increased appropriations by 3 to 5 percent to some human service programs and direct service providers as well as costs for state employee raises.

This increase does not account for increased demands for extra funding for nursing homes, hospitals, colleges, universities and some other state agencies and human services providers.

There is also more anticipated revenue from income taxes to help offset those costs.

Between 2020 and 2026, income tax revenues are expected to increase by varying amounts between $20 million and $96 million each year, even when accounting for increased income tax credits the bill would make available to businesses. By 2026, income taxes revenue will have increased by nearly $400 million from 2019.

Despite added revenues being less than the costs, Pritzker said he will present a balanced budget on Feb. 20.

“We are going to be presenting a balanced budget that includes the cost of the minimum wage,” he said, offering no further details as to how that would be accomplished.

— The Southern contributed to this story.

Metropolis gets $231,000 from state to fix up its public pool

METROPOLIS — For more than half a century, the youth of Metropolis have flocked to the city pool as school lets out and the temperatures rise.

It's one of the best things going for youth in Metropolis in the summer, said Mayor Billy McDaniel. 

“If it were not for that swimming pool being open through the week, many, many low-income families would not have anything for their children to do all summer long,” he said. 

But the city pool, which opened in 1964, is in need of extensive renovation work, which the city will finally be able to undertake thanks to a grant that Gov. JB Pritzker announced this week.

The city received $231,000 to sandblast and resurface the pool, and to construct a Superman-themed splash pad at Franklin Park. The city is required to match the grant funding. 

“It needs this so badly, and I’m just thrilled,” said Pris Abell, the city’s director of Parks and Recreation.

The funding for Metropolis was among $28.9 million in grants the governor announced on Tuesday to help 89 communities across the state acquire open space or develop and improve recreational facilities. The funding comes from the state’s Open Space Land Acquisition and Development Program, which receives dedicated funding from a percentage of the state’s real estate transfer tax.

In a news release, Pritzker said these park improvement projects will make it easier for families to enjoy the state’s beauty and also “create jobs, providing a boost to local economic development efforts.”

Abell said Metropolis plans to get started with its pool renovation and splash pad as soon as the weather allows this spring. The pool opens the first weekend after school lets out, and she plans to have it ready in time to welcome children to another swim season. The pool is a popular venue in Massac County that draws families from across the broader region.

“We keep a tally of how many people run through the gates each day. It comes to over 10,000 in a three month period. We draw people from all over,” Abell said. “We get families from Vienna and Harrisburg, Pope County, Paducah.”

Part of the draw, she said, is it only costs $1.25 per person to enter (and kids 5 and under can swim for free). The city has purposefully maintained that low cost because many families could not otherwise afford repeat visits for their children throughout the summer if it was more expensive, she said.

Any child who visits the pool during the summer can also get a free meal, courtesy of a donations-based program overseen by the Metropolis Police Department. During the school year, children from low-income families can eat free at school, but during the summer months, options are limited, Abell said. Any child, regardless of need, is welcome to the daily menu of hot dogs, chips, fruit and a drink.

“We really consider it a real service in the summer to the area, especially the youth,” she said. “They need this.”

Southern Five Regional Planning District and Development Commission assisted the city of Metropolis in writing the grant. 

The city of Vienna also received $360,000 for improvements to the Vienna City Park.

The Southern File Photo  

The exterior of The Hangar 9 in Carbondale is shown in 2014.