Friday, June 08, 2007

Necessary Satans

[posted by Callimachus]

In the wake of the recent death of Selma's notorious unrepentant segregationist ex-sheriff Jim Clark, Captain Ed notes in interesting passage in the Newsweek Q and A with Rep. John Lewis, the one-time civil rights leader who felt Clark's wrath.

Did he ever apologize for his actions, or express any remorse?

No, he never did. I know there were press people that tried to interview him in a little town near where he died and he never, ever showed any sense of remorse. He never asked to be forgiven for what he did. He even told one reporter that he didn't beat John Lewis, that he never hit anyone, that some of us were beaten because we were trying to date some of the local peoples’ wives and girlfriends. He was never able to see the light; he was just never able to come around. There were other people in Selma—the mayor—who called us troublemakers and agitators at the time, [who] came around and said he thought I was one of the bravest human beings he had ever known and if he had been black he would have been doing the same thing. And when we went back to Selma for an anniversary a few years ago as honorary mayor, he hosted a luncheon for us and gave me the keys to the city. Gov. [George] Wallace, who was a friend of Sheriff Clark, asked to be forgiven, but Sheriff Clark never did. ...

To some extent it was the brutality of people like Sheriff Clark that brought the country around on civil rights. Is their some level of appreciation for what his actions did for the movement?

I can appreciate that. I think it was President Kennedy who said that if we ever passed a Civil Rights Act, and he was talking about the act he didn't live to see passed, he said we would have to give credit to Bull Connor. I think we have to give a lot of credit to Clark and other people who beat us because Americans were able to see the contrast. They saw unbelievable, brave, courageous people believing in a dream and participating in nonviolence being beaten and brutalized. And it was the contrast that I think did change America and hasten the day of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. In early 1965, President [Lyndon] Johnson told Dr. [Martin Luther] King we didn't have the vote to pass the Voting Rights Act, but with the reaction of people like Sheriff Clark he created the environment to get the votes to pass the act. That cannot be denied.

Labels: ,