Larry Provost

In the last year, past civil rights successes have been honored. Yet one of the biggest successes of the movement , the redemption of Governor George Wallace, is intentionally omitted and keeps division alive.

Former Alabama Governor George Wallace is today known mostly as the man in history books, and the film Forrest Gump, who defied a federal court order by standing in the schoolhouse door of the University of Alabama in order to block the first two black students from attending the University. This incident came after Governor Wallace pledged, in his 1963 Alabama gubernatorial inaugural address, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.”

In 1965, civil rights marchers were violently turned back at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, under state forces commanded by Governor George Wallace. However, the reaction of the protestors won the hearts of a nation, and helped redeem the man who was against them. The protestors did not turn to violence, threats of violence, or coercion. Instead, they marched for their God given rights and even sang, “We love Governor Wallace, in our hearts.” Little did Wallace know how profound this message of reconciliation would be in his own life.

Wallace ran for President in 1968 and received one of the largest vote tallies for a third party candidate in American history. In 1972 Wallace ran for President in the Democratic Party primaries. He garnered victories in several states and was running strong on May 15, 1972, the day he won the Maryland and Michigan primaries. This was also the day he was shot in an assassination attempt.

Wallace survived the shooting and, in the midst of his pain, received by his bedside the political enemies he had. His visits, and his pain, made him think of the suffering he caused the black people, and all people, of Alabama and America.

Wallace lived another 26 years after the shooting and finished well. He returned to his faith and in 1974 gave his testimony of Christ at Thomas Road Baptist Church, and thereafter began reaching out to those he had wronged. Governor Wallace apologized to the Selma marchers whom he had turned back at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He made amends and honored James Hood and Vivian Malone, whom he had blocked entrance from the University of Alabama, with awards for courage. Governor Wallace even forgave the man who shot him.

Larry Provost

Larry Provost currently works in Washington, D.C.