Death of Defender John Salter Jr., Civil Rights Advocate and Former UND Professor, UFO Theorist


Salter was a professor at UND from 1981 to 1994. He chaired the US Department of Indian Studies and was a member of the UND Honors Committee.

"After leaving UND, he changed his name and now calls John (Hunter) Gray," said Peter, Salter's son. "His father – my grandfather – was a Native American. He was adopted very young by the Salter family, hence his name. Later, in my father's life, he wanted to give his name to his family. "

In 2000, while living in Pocatello, Idaho, John Salter changed his name to simply become Hunter Gray.

He grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona, and graduated from the University of Arizona with degrees and master's degrees in sociology in 1958 and 1960, according to archived information from the University of Wisconsin.

He told the Herald in 1989 that he considered his true diploma a temporary injunction that he had received from the city of Jackson, Missouri, for his involvement in the civil rights movement.

John Salter participated in several street protests and a sit-in with social activist Medgar Evers. A photo of him sitting with other participants sitting while white clients were throwing condiments at them was becoming a popular portrayal of violent segregation at the time.

He also took part in Mississippi's first civil rights demonstration with King in 1963, according to previous Herald reports.

"He has moved a lot because he would always find a different fight or a different cause," said his son.

Shortly after graduating from Arizona State, John Salter taught at Superior (Wis.) State College, where he met his wife, Eldri. He then held various teaching positions throughout the country, including Goddard College in Vermont, Rainier State School in Washington, and Coe College in Iowa.

John Salter was involved in activism and social justice wherever he lived – he was director of the Southside of the Chicago Commons Association for Social Services, and in New York State he was the director of the Office of Human Development of the United States. Catholic Diocese in Rochester, New York.

He taught sociology at Navajo Community College in Tsaile, Arizona before moving to Grand Forks.

Scott Winter, a professor of journalism at Bethel University in St. Paul, said he met John Salter in a course on Native American studies that Winter had attended at UND.

"I was the kind of student who, once I found a good teacher, took what they taught," Winter said. "I found (John Salter) brilliant, and I wanted him to give me books to read that I could finish and talk in his office."

Once Winter became a teacher, he declared that John Salter had supported him in his most difficult and rewarding moments in the academic world.

"I think one of the reasons I started teaching was because of my most compelling and eccentric teachers," Winter said. "I think of all the great teachers I had and they were all great characters. John Hunter Gray was a great character for all the right reasons – he was a phenomenal storyteller and he always defended marginal people. "

John Salter's grandson, Thomas Salter, a physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said he had lived with his grandfather for most of his childhood and considered their relationship as a father to a son.

Even after his retirement from the UND, John Salter remained a mentor to many former students and colleagues, said Thomas Salter.

"It was almost the hour of office," said Thomas Salter, recalling former students and colleagues visiting John Salter. "People would come and give them support, advice, or just direction. He has always been an elder for all, not just a definite cultural group. "

John Salter told in the late 1980s that he had two encounters with a UFO when he was out of state. According to previous reports from Herald, he was coordinator of the North Dakota chapter of the Mutual UFO Network in 1989 and offered classes on his experiences to students.

His lectures on UFOs were very popular, said Winter, while he recalled attending some of the lectures in this class.

"For me it was a class like this one that's really interesting because it challenges your world," Winter said. "It challenges your vision of the world and opens your vision of the world. And even if you do not believe it, it challenges you and makes you a better person. I think it's the object of all his classes.

John Salter was predeceased by the death of his wife, Eldri (Johanson) Salter in 2015. He is survived by his daughters Maria and Josie, his sons Peter and John III, and several grandchildren.

The family will organize private services for him.