Alan Canfora, a survivor of the Kent State shootings, dies at 71


Canfora was shot on May 4, 1970 and later became famous for a photo of him waving a flag on the student green.

KENT, Ohio — Alan Canfora, a Kent State University graduate who became famous for his role in the tragic May 4 shootings, has died.

Canfora’s sister Roseann “Chic” Canfora confirmed Alan’s death Sunday afternoon on Facebook at the age of 71. She later told the Akron Beacon Journal her brother died on Dec. 20 from “a brief illness unrelated to COVID-19.”

“Our hearts are broken at the loss of a spirit so irreplaceable to us and to the world,” Chic Canfora wrote. “The burden of our grief will be lightened in the days to come by the thousands of voices Alan inspired, the causes he championed and the lives he changed. Give us strength and give us time.”

An Akron native, Canfora arrived on the KSU campus in the late 1960s and soon joined the boisterous student movement against the Vietnam War. Following the funeral of a friend who died overseas and the subsequent announcement by President Richard Nixon of the bombing of Cambodia, Canfora became a prime force behind the protests at Kent State University.

The burning of the school’s ROTC building led to the National Guard being called in, and it all came to a head on May 4, 1970. Alan and Chic Canfora were both among those on the student green that day, with a picture of Alan waving a black flag in the face of armed guards becoming famous throughout the country.

At 12:24 p.m., the guardsmen fired 67 shots on the unarmed activists over a period of 13 seconds. Alan Canfora was among nine injured after he was hit in the wrist, while four others were killed.

“It was very unexpected, shocking and it was just wrong,” Canfora recalled in an interview with 3News earlier this year. “It was just uncalled for.”

The incident sent shockwaves across America, and became a rallying cry for those involved in the anti-war movement (the fighting in Vietnam would still not end for a few more years). In particular, Canfora’s experience inspired him to a lifetime of activism, and he continued to speak about the lessons from that day over the next 50 years.

“Somehow I survived the surreal Kent State massacre,” he wrote. “I lived to fight another day and to lead our longstanding May 4 Movement for truth and justice in Kent, Ohio.”

Canfora later received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from KSU and lived in Northeast Ohio the rest of his life. Besides volunteering for the May 4 visitor’s center, he also served as chair of the Barberton Democratic Party and director of the Akron Law Library.

Kent State President Dr. Todd Diacon issued the following statement on Canfora’s passing:

“As the President of Kent State University, I join with many others as we mourn the death of Alan Canfora, an individual so linked to our institution. Alan was tireless and fearless in his search for the truth of what really happened on May 4, 1970. He made a difference, and he will be missed.”

Canfora is survived by his wife and two children as well as his mother and three siblings, according to the Beacon Journal. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.


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Marya Vinget

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