When a Historian Plays Joe McCarthy He Has to Fake It

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Paul Vickery doesn't always like the characters he portrays in this summer's Chautauqua celebration in Greeley.

Take Sen. Joe McCarthy, for example. Vickery, a history professor at Oral Roberts University, does a pretty good job of mimicking the speech pattern, body language and thinking of the late Wisconsin senator who spearheaded the anti-communist movement of the 1950s.

But just because he does a good McCarthy doesn't mean he has to like the man.

"When I portray McCarthy, I am obviously trying to justify McCarthy. But to me the historian, I think he did ruin a lot of lives and destroyed a lot of reputations," Vickery said.

Vickery will portray McCarthy during the High Plains Chautauqua event that runs today through Saturday under a big tent at Aims Community College.

This year's theme, said High Plains Chautauqua director Jane Adams, is "Shake, Rattle and Roll." The idea is to highlight the period from 1945 to 1960, which marked the beginning of the Cold War, when Americans worried about nuclear attack and the threat of communism. Adams said people were shaken by civil rights issues, rattled by the emerging youth-culture rebellion and began to roll down the newly completed American highway system.

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