In 1962, George C. Wallace ran for governor of Alabama on a platform that was blatantly racist. He promised to fight integration to the point of defying federal orders by blockading schoolhouse doors. He ended his gubernatorial inaugural address with the infamous statement: “I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.” He refused to allow Black students to register at the University of Alabama until forced with the threat of military intervention.
During his tenure as governor and a run for the presidency in 1968, Wallace shouted racial hatred throughout Alabama as Blacks were being beaten and jailed, Black churches were being burned and bombed, and Black children were being murdered.
It was May 15, 1972, and while campaigning in Laurel, Maryland, Wallace was shot five times, leaving him paralyzed and in constant pain. Confined to a wheelchair without the use of his legs, and lacking control of bodily functions, Wallace was a broken pathetic figure. He was a man who finally understood the meaning of suffering, and the pain and suffering he’d caused others. Being driven home one day he passed the open doors of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, a Black congregation, where Martin Luther King had once spoken about Wallace’s treatment of Blacks in Alabama. Wallace asked to stop the car and was wheeled inside to a stunned congregation. There, Wallace tearfully confessed he had been wrong.
He apologized for the suffering he had caused and asked the Black assembly to forgive him.
It was an expression of remorse he was to repeaton numerous occasions to Black audiences on campuses, conventions, and privately to Black leaders like Coretta Scott King, and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Repentance is something we all must do.
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