Tuesday, May 15, 2007

May 15, 1972:

George Wallace Shot

Alabama Gov. George Wallace did remarkably well for a third-party presidential candidate in 1968, capturing 9.4 million votes and even more remarkably, 46 electoral votes. It was a time when an unrepentant segregationist still resonated with a lot of the electorate.

In 1972, Wallace decided to run again, this time for the Democratic nomination. He made a strong running, winning a number of states, but a would-be assassin had other plans for him. On May 15, 1972, Wallace was working a crowd in Laurel, Md.

"Wallace was not at his best that day," Time magazine reported on May 29, 1972. "When he took out in his standard speech after those 'pointy-headed intellectuals who can't park their bicycles straight,' his voice cracked. Time and again he referred to 'Princess George County'; Laurel is in Prince Georges County. From the rear, collegians laughed and shouted: 'Go back to Alabama. You don't even know where you are.'

"Wallace plunged on -- against 'social schemers' and 'ultra-false liberals.' After 50 minutes, he advised the folks to vote in the primary 'to shake the eyeteeth of the Democratic Party. Let's give 'em the St. Vitus dance. And tell 'em a vote for George Wallace is a vote for the average citizen.'

"The applause was thunderous... Wallace walked down the steps from the stage and decided to shake a few hands, as he often does after speeches. An aging woman nearby, in Wallace blouse and Wallace hat, shouted groupie-fashion: 'Over here, George, over here!' He took off his jacket and handed it to an aide, then moved to his left to work down a line of supporters behind a cordon. 'Nice to see ya,' he said. 'Nice to see ya.'

"Among the crowd, in opaque sunglasses and short, pale blond hair, was a 21-year-old from Milwaukee named Arthur Bremer. Almost a parody of the failed young loners from renter rooms who seem to end up assassinating American politicians, Bremer had apparently been stalking Wallace for weeks. Now, as Wallace moved easily through the crowd, Bremer suddenly thrust his arm through a ring of onlookers. In rapid fire, about 18 inches from his target, he blasted five shots from his snub-nosed revolver. Even as he was shooting, security men jammed his arm downward and fell on him.

"Wallace flipped back onto the asphalt and lay there, conscious but stunned. Blood streamed from his right arm, and oozed through his shirt at the lower right ribs. Alabama State Trooper Captain E.C. Dothard, wounded in the stomach, fell in front of Time correspondent Joseph Kane. Nearby, Secret Service Agent Nicholas Zarvos clutched a wound in his throat. Dora Thompson, a local Wallace worker slumped to the ground with a bullet in her right leg... As a blanket of police smothered Bremer, there were shrieks and isolated cries of 'Kill him! Kill him!'

Wallace was crippled by the attempt on his life, and lost the nomination to George McGovern. His assailant still resides in prison. Wallace, who died in 1998, changed his mind during the late 1970s about his earlier segregationist views, and publicly apologized for them.

1 comment:

boxcarro said...

I was living in Racine & Working in Milwaukee in 1972. I remember this a lot better than you do, as you have interjected a lot of fantasy, or poetic license..
or perhaps you were not even born in 1972: my Son was only born 22 Oct. 1971, & I am now a Great Grandfather.
If you cannot give a Account that is Verifiable to a Eye Witness's, then you should go back to Real Estate, Science Fiction or the National Lampoon.