Bull Connor, George Wallace, Jefferson Davis: who are they?

More scrutiny comes days after President Joe Biden’s comments about the right and wrong side of history were, in vain, asking fellow Democrats like Censor Joe Manchin and Kirsten Cinemas to change Senate rules and demand new voting rights. To persuade to pass security.

“In consequent moments in history, they present an alternative,” Biden said in his speech from Atlanta earlier this week. “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”

Everyone knows who good people are.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a visionary leader of equality who embodies the era of civil rights. He was murdered by an assassin in 1968. We celebrate his birthday with a federal holiday on Monday. There is a monument in his likeness on the National Mall in Washington.

John Lewis was civil rights Activist who was beaten up on a bridge in Selma, Alabama, and who served in Congress and was welcomed across the political spectrum After his death in 2020.

Abraham Lincoln was the president who restored the union “with malice towards” and which had also been cut off by an assassin. His memorial is near the King’s on the Mall.

But those other names, which were important in history and were once known throughout the country, are not as well known today.

Who are George Wallace, Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis?

Wallace, who Biden to a. featured as Foil to King, a separatist and former longtime governor of Alabama. A Southern Democrat, he ran for president in 1968 under the American Independent Party and won five southern states. He is the last non-dominant party candidate to win the electoral vote.

George Wallace was the governor of Alabama for four terms between 1963 and 1987.  In this photo he is attempting to block integration at the University of Alabama, standing at a door on June 11, 1963, while being confronted by US Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach.  ,

Connor, who Biden was described as a foil to Lewis, born Theophilus Eugene Connor. He was the former Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham, Alabama, who allowed the Ku Klux Klan to beat up civil rights activists whose police dogs threatened protesters and who fought for integration with every fiber of their existence.

Here is a 1963 dispatch in Time magazine when black Americans in Birmingham rose under the leadership of the king:

“Undoubtedly, Birmingham was the hardest segregated city in the South from the point of view of Negroes. And this was the epitome of Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene (“Bull”) Connor, who for 23 years kept Negroes at bay with raucous threats and club-swinging police . . it was against Connor’s Birmingham that King began secretly recruiting volunteers. …”

Davis, who Biden, referred to as a foil to Lincoln, was the president of the union—a man who helped tear the nation apart after Lincoln was elected president. Davis’ statues have been torn down in recent years, although many remain.

It’s easy to see why Biden chose these three characters as villains in his speech. Republicans are being compared to Wallace, Connor and Davis.

“How deeply — deeply — non-president,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. “I have known, liked and personally respected Joe Biden for many years. I did not recognize the man on the podium yesterday.”
The White House on Friday clarified Biden’s comments, arguing that he was not making a “human” comparison.

“I think everyone is listening to the speech that is speaking at that level, as my mother says, note that he was not comparing them as humans, he was the choice of those figures in history. and where they are going to position themselves to determine whether they are going to support the fundamental right to vote,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

Inviting Connor and Wallace has been popular among Democrats. Former President Barack Obama mentioned both men at Lewis’ funeral in 2020.

“Bull Connor can go,” Obama said. “But today we see with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of black Americans. George Wallace may be gone. But we are telling agents of our federal government to use tear gas and batons against peaceful protesters. You can see it being sent.”

History is also not as simple as Biden suggested, at least in Wallace’s case.

When first inaugurated as governor in 1963, Wallace gleefully promised, “separation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” He venerated the Union and worked to disrupt the civil rights movement, behind which the Democrats in Washington were behind. Wallace’s appeal extended beyond the South, however, even though he represented an older version of a changing party.

He ran as an American independent in 1968, but in 1972, as a Democrat, he ran again, furthering the opposition to Busing (ask Biden about it). But he was shot by a madman and his campaign was cut short while he was still taking off steam.

He still took power in the party in 1976, although he was using a wheelchair at the time. So much power that while he eventually endorsed future President Jimmy Carter, Carter went to Montgomery, Alabama, to personally thank him for being out of the race.

Wallace regretted the racism he had once exploited – he expressed remorse and tried to restore his image, even asking Lewis for forgiveness. Lewis wrote a New York Times essay after Wallace’s death in 1998, saying he should be pardoned.

“George Wallace should be remembered for his ability to transform,” Lewis wrote. “And we are better off as a nation because of our ability to forgive and to accept that our political leaders are human and a reflection of social currents in the river of history at large.”

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