Thursday, June 10, 2010
He died in September, 1998 -- Governor George Corley Wallace, the fighting little judge -- a broken, pain wracked, humbled human being. I didn't get to go to the funeral, but I would have liked to. It would have brought closure to that part of my life and I would have known a lot of folks there -- his kids, George Jr. and Little Leigh, Bobbie Jo and Peggy Sue, and Dothard, the burly, joking State Trooper I liked so well who was wounded when the Governor was gunned down, and maybe several of his ex wives and a lot of other old friends -- the three other young attorneys, Stan and Joe, and John, who with Tom traveled the whole country accomplishing what they said was impossible at the time -- getting the Governor ballot position in all 50 states -- a first in the history books.
I wonder if speech writer Asa Carter was there, who penned the Governor's most famous words:
I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny. And I say Segregation Today, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever!
Or Tommy Gallion, the Secretary of State’s college student son who was our squirrel coordinator -- in charge of all the nut calls.
I was once a terrible racist --working on the national campaign staff of The Governor (we called him that as though there was only one in all the world).For three years I was a paid campaign staffer helping him "Stand Up for America"--our slogan was a clarion call for the working class of Alabama and across the country. It was a white
So how did we get from there to here -- working to end the politics of hate and fear that is designed to divide folks; working to end oppression and create a more just society--on our Journey toward Wholeness.
The vehicle of change for us was working in the community. Tom and I have always been political animals -- trying to effect public policy -- even when we were wrong -- and that was how we began to question, examine, grow and change. Going to meeting in school cafeterias, barber shops, pool halls, black Baptist churches, to talk about utility reform and economic inequity, we met folks who seemed very unlike ourselves -- but when they talked about the issues important to their lives -- the health and safety of their children, educational opportunities, decent jobs, fair electric rates -- we began to see and feel and understand that we are more alike than we are different -- that all of us have similar fears and uncertainties and all of us have similar hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So I am a great believer in our ability to change -- to change unfair and oppressive laws, to change systems that oppress one group and empower another, to change a human heart.
If I can change, anybody can change. I believe in transformation. I can tell you that transformation almost never happens suddenly, but it does happen. I can't detail every encounter with those who were not racists, every exposure to those who lived and breathed their celebration of our common humanity , every positive example large and small that changed me -- but they did. I am living proof that small acts of bravery, kind words spoken to others, ideals lived out, can transform a heart, a life, an institution, a country, a world. Be confident that each of us can make a difference.