EDITORIAL: Former Alabama Gov. Patterson leaves complicated legacy stained by early segregationist views

·4 min read

Jun. 9—When the Freedom Riders were being attacked in Anniston 60 years ago, one man could have stopped the violence with a stand of conscience and courage.

Former Alabama Gov. John Patterson instead stood silently and defiantly as crowds attacked the buses passing through the state. The Freedom Riders — civil rights activists testing a Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation in interstate travel — were beaten severely by White mobs. They had no local police protection.

kAm"(6 42?'E 24E 2D ?FCD6>2:5D E@ 28:E2E@CD[" !2EE6CD@? D2:5 2E E96 E:>6] "*@F ;FDE 42?'E 8F2C2?E66 E96 D276EJ @7 2 7@@=[ 2?5 E92E'D H92E E96D6 7@=6 :? v@=5G:==6 @? uC:52J 2E 286 hh[ !2EE6CD@?'D 762C 23@FE 9:D 4@>A=:42E65 =6824J H2D C62=:K65]k^Am

kAm%96 s6>@4C2E[ H9@ D6CG65 2D p=232>2'D 2EE@C?6J 86?6C2= 7C@> 'hdd E@ 'hdh 2?5 8@G6C?@C 7C@> 'hdh E@ 'heb[ H2D C6>6>36C65 AC:>2C:=J :? @3:EF2C:6D 7@C 9:D D68C682E:@?:DE DE2?5D] w6 H2D 2EE@C?6J 86?6C2= 5FC:?8 E96 |@?E8@>6CJ 3FD 3@J4@EED @7 'hdd 2?5 'hde]k^Am

kAm!2EE6CD@? H2D 42==65 E96 6>3@5:>6?E @7 $@FE96C? 567:2?46 E@H2C5 4:G:= C:89ED 5FC:?8 E96 492@E:4 'hd_D 2?5 'he_D] w:D 3C2G25@ 2=D@ 82G6 C:D6 E@ 2? 6G6? 3@=56C A@=:E:4:2?[ v6@C86 (2==246[ H9@D6 D68C682E:@?:DE A@=:4:6D[ C246\32:E:?8 2?5 762C\>@?86C:?8 E2EE@@65 p=232>2 H:E9 A6C>2?6?E H@F?5D E92E 92G6 ?@E 962=65 E@52J]k^Am

kAm{:2 :? 9:D 9:DE@C:4 6=64E:@? 2D E96 4@F?ECJ'D 7:CDE q=24AC6D:56?E :? a__g]k^Am

kAmt2C=:6C 2?5 =2E6C :? 9:D 42C66C[ !2EE6CD@? H2D @? E96 C:89E A2E9 H:E9 F?5:DAFE65 4@FC286] w6 D6CG65 :? (@C=5 (2C xx 2?5 H@? E96 qC@?K6 |652= 7@C 4@>32E D6CG:46 F?56C v6?] sH:89E s] t:D6?9@H6C] p7E6C 9:D 72E96C[ p=36CE[ H2D 2DD2DD:?2E65 :? !96?:I r:EJ H9:=6 CF??:?8 7@C 2EE@C?6J 86?6C2= :? 'hdc[ !2EE6CD@?[ E96? ba[ DE6AA65 7@CH2C5 2?5 2446AE65 E96 ?@>:?2E:@? 56DA:E6 E9C62ED E@ 9:D @H? =:76]k^Am

kAm!2EE6CD@?'D 2EE24 E96 zF z=FI z=2? H6C6 @4C2E:4 AC:>2CJ] (2==246 C2? 2D E96 >@56C2E6 2=E6C?2E:G6 3FE C642DE 9:>D6=7 2D 2 7:6C46 @AA@?6?E @7 56D68C682E:@? :? =2E6C 8F36C?2E@C:2= 2?5 AC6D:56?E:2= 6=64E:@?D]k^Am

kAmsFC:?8 9:D E6C> :? @77:46[ !2EE6CD@? 5@F3=65 A6?D:@?D 7@C E96 6=56C=J[ 4C246] %9@D6 H6C6 8@@5 E9:?8D 7@C p=232>2]k^Am

kAm(:E9 !2EE6CD@? F?23=6 E@ CF? 282:? :? 'hea 3642FD6 @7 2 DE2E6 =2H AC6G6?E:?8 2 8@G6C?@C 7C@> 36:?8 6=64E65 E@ 2 DF446DD:G6 E6C>[ (2==246 C@56 AC@>:D6D @7 "D68C682E:@? 7@C6G6C" E@ |@?E8@>6CJ 2?5 ?2E:@?2= 244=2:>] !2EE6CD@? EC:65 E@ CF? 7@C 8@G6C?@C 282:? 2?5 =@DE E@ (2==246'D H:76 :? 'hee] w6 C2? 7@C 49:67 ;FDE:46 @7 E96 p=232>2 $FAC6>6 r@FCE :? 'hf_ 2?5 72:=65[ C6EFC?:?8 E@ =2H AC24E:46] (2==246 2AA@:?E65 9:> E96 p=232>2 r@FCE @7 rC:>:?2= pAA62=D :? 'hgc[ H96C6 96 D6CG65 F?E:= C6E:C6>6?E :? 'hhf]k^Am

kAm%96 E@I:4 C24:2= 4=:>2E6 :? p=232>2 H2D ?@E 4C62E65 3J !2EE6CD@?[ 3FE 96 2==@H65 :E E@ >2C49 @?[ 7:==65 H:E9 92E6 2?5 G:@=6?46] w:D =2E6C 5:D2G@H2= @7 C24:D> 2?5 E96 zzz =65 E@ D@>6 7@C8:G6?6DD 7C@> q=246?E H2D ?@E 7@C8@EE6?[ 2D E96 7=FCCJ @7 @3:EF2C:6D @? 9:D 562E9 2EE6DE]k^Am

James Bennett is Executive Editor. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or jbennett@annistonstar.com.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting