Wallace contributed to the climate of violence that was so deadly that Birmingham got the nickname “Bombingham.”
After he was elected governor, the man stood before the entire state and uttered those infamous words “segregation today, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”
The man stood in the university doorways to prevent black students from enrolling in state schools. All these acts served to only embolden the racist, Ku Klux Klan elements bent on murder and mayhem.
Five years after the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, Wallace ran for president. His platform?
Law and order.
I kid you not. The man from the state with the city nicknamed “Bombingham,” the man from the state where, five years after not a soul had been arrested for the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, stood before the country and told everyone he was the guy to bring law and order to the country.
This fool couldn’t even bring law and order to his own state, but enough Americans bought into his spiel that Wallace split the vote in the 1968 election.
He and his running mate, Gen. Curtis “Bomb North Vietnam Back To The Stone Age” Lemay,” got nearly 14 percent of the vote.
Democrat Hubert Humphrey, the incumbent vice president, got 42.72 percent. Republican Richard Nixon, the eventual winner, got 43.42 percent.
Nearly 10 million Americans voted for Wallace in 1968. Each of those ballots was an insult to the very memory of Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley.
So yes, 50 years ago this week I did indeed fall in love with Denise McNair. I’d like to think that love was greater than my hatred of Wallace, but the man made it difficult.
In his later years, Wallace supposedly underwent some sort of conversion, one that several black leaders bought. Black folks were now cool with him, Mr. “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever” proclaimed.
I didn’t buy it, not for a nanosecond. I didn’t want to hear from Wallace that black folks were cool with him.
I wanted to hear him admit how his own rhetoric and actions led to the death of that little girl I fell hopelessly in love with 50 years ago this week.
Love Lost: How One of the Greatest Crimes of the 20th Century Changed One Man’s Life was originally published on blackamericaweb.com