Riots, Race And Rumors In Utah, 1965

Oct 9, 2020

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prepared for General Conference in October of 1965, northern Utah was on high alert. 

Rumors moved through the area that busloads of Black rioters from California and elsewhere were on their way to storm Temple Square. There were also reports of missing bombs from Hill Air Force Base, Black men buying up all of the guns in local sporting goods stores and even that Martin Luther King, Jr. planned to stay at the Hotel Utah during the riots. 

But the conference came and went, and no rioters appeared. It was later discovered that the rumor was started by members of the John Birch Society, who had their own reasons for wanting to sew fear throughout Utah. Friday at 11 a.m., we’re looking at this moment in our state's history and how, 55 years later, rumors are still used as a weapon of political fear.

Watch our RadioWest Films short, History Repeats Itself | Utah Race Riot Conspiracy here

A big thank you to PBS Utah and director Nancy Green for sharing audio of Darius Gray from her documentary "Utah's Freedom Riders."


  • Darius Gray, speaker, writer, activist and filmmaker.
  • Margaret Blair Young, writer, filmmaker and former writing instructor at Brigham Young University. She and Darius Gray are the directors of the documentary, Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons.
  • Dr. Matt L. Harris, professor of history at Colorado State University-Pueblo. His most recent book is Watchman on the Tower: Ezra Taft Benson and the Making of the Mormon Right. [Bookshop | Amazon]
  • Dr. LaShawn Williams, assistant professor of social work and a licensed clinical social worker.