One Year in Tehran

Univ. of Kentucky Dean Witnesses Iranian History

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | December 16, 2013                    

Levi Jackson Horlacher, University of Kentucky professor Levi Jackson Horlacher (1896-1985) was a professor of Animal Husbandry and Dean of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky. In 1953, he became a witness to Iranian history.

Born in Frankfort, Indiana, Horlacher graduated from Purdue University with a Ph.D. and also earned an M.S. from Kansas State College. In 1927 he became Assistant Dean of the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture and Home Economics, where he remained working until 1964. He also wrote books on agriculture and breeding livestock such as sheep, ewes, cattle and rams.

It so happens that Horlacher’s expertise was of use to United States’ foreign aid programs, and in May 1953, the Board of Trustees granted him a one year leave of absence without pay to travel with his wife to Tehran as a consultant to the U.S. technical assistance program known as Point Four. There he would advise the University of Tehran’s agriculture department and collect data for use by rural farmers.

Coincidentally, an Iranian student known around school as "Mike" was attending the University of Kentucky during this same period. He would later become the Shah’s Minister of Education — Manouchehr Ganji. United Nations Secretary General Trygve Lie, who in 1951 had personally escorted Mossadegh to the UN General Assembly in New York, had also just spoken at the Lexington college before an audience of around 3,000.

Point Four headquarters in Tehran was directly adjacent to the home of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, a building he formally owned. Mr. Horlacher had a front row seat to much of the upheaval that transpired in the months leading up to, and including, Mossadegh’s overthrow. The excitement was apparently worth writing home about. In successive letters, the professor updated friends and family in Kentucky about all the action he had been witnessing.

An October 30, 1953 article in the student newspaper The Kentucky Kernel offered a summary of these letters. As shown, Horlacher’s views on Mossadegh’s government and the spectre of a communist takeover in Iran aligned precisely with the prevailing narratives of the Eisenhower administration and persistent propaganda served up in the American media.

The Kentucky Kernel (University of Kentucky)

UK Dean Is Witness To Iranian Uprisings


Drawn bayonets and shouts of “Go home Yankee” have been greeting Dean L. J. Horlacher, who is in Tehran, Iran, on a year’s leave of absence from the University.

The associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics gives an eye-witness account of the Mossadeq uprising in Tehran in a series of letters written to friends here.

Dean Horlacher’s office, which was located in Mossadeq’s old home where he sought shelter during the up-rising, was ransacked and left in shambles in a demonstration Aug. 19. Everything in the office was destroyed.

In a letter written on July 19 Dean Horlacher said, “A door has been cut in the wall (surrounding the office building) and is guarded continuously by a soldier. As a matter of fact, the entire area is guarded and to get through the gate in the wall which leads to my office from the street I must pass by a soldier on guard with a drawn bayonet. . . . Incidents could easily occur.

Remained In Hotel

“This morning groups of students from the university, which has a heavy infiltration of communists, were on the street calling “Go Home Yankee”. . . . We must remain in the hotel or at least venture out only if necessary”.

On Aug. 11 he reported that the government situation remained tense.

“When the majlis convened recently,” he said, “most of the deputies resigned, so Mossadeq had the people vote as to whether or not the majlis should be dissolved. It was a democratic vote. Those who were for dissolution and Mossadeq voted at one place. Those against voted at another. The vote was about 1,700,000 for and 600 against. Four people were killed.”

Demonstrators March

Demonstrations were held on July 21, constitution day, [? — probably referring to the one year anniversary of the 30 Tir uprising] for and against the government, with the against groups being much larger, according to Dean Horlacher. The Horlachers were practically confined to quarters that day. When the demonstrators marched past the hotel the gates of the compound were shut and barred.

“Ever since President Eisenhower denied Mossadeq’s appeal for huge economic aid, sentiment against America has been growing,” wrote the dean. “Mossadeq is now in the position of a dictator, as there are no majlis.”

A month later, after the violence had passed, Dean Horlacher wrote about the actual capture of Mossadeq.

Communists Underground

“Things are very quiet, and we meet no hostility on the streets, though I cannot say that there is any great display of friendliness. The communists are underground for the time being. . . . Most of the “Yankee go home” signs have been removed. . . . In addition to our papers (lost when his office was ransacked) we lost 12 automobiles, five of which were recovered. . . . We decided to come to the hotel and ran into a big demonstration. We didn’t know the character of the group and that the communists had taken over. The battle to seize Mossadeq began about 5 p.m.

When the mob began to pull down statutes of the Shah and to desecrate the grave of Reza Shah, the people began to feel that their religion was being attacked. They protested to Mossadeq who ordered out the army.”

The next day the army turned against Mossadeq and the communists went underground. “But for this”, said Dean Horlacher, “Iran might well be communist today.”

Levi Jackson Horlacher, University of Kentucky professor

Mossadegh & Arbenz & Lumumba & Sukarno & Allende... shirts

Mossadegh & Arbenz & Lumumba & Sukarno & Allende... t-shirts


Related links:

Penn State Student Explains Iran’s Freedom Struggle | The Daily Collegian, Nov. 8, 1968

Firsthand Account of 1953 Coup By American in Tehran | The Reporter, November 10, 1953

Iran’s Counter Revolution | Lewiston Evening Journal, Aug. 21, 1953

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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