For those of you unfortunate enough not to know your history …
In 1965 Clark was the sheriff of Selma, Alabama. In March of that year, he and his deputies joined state troopers in attacking marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, an event that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” They loosed police dogs and water from fire hoses on people marching for the radical idea that the phrase “all men are created equally” included African Americans.Clark wore a “Never” button on his sheriff’s uniform to show his opposition to black voter registration and for the rest of his life would tell anyone who asked that he had done the right thing that day. In some respects he had. That attack prompted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to lead a voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery and brought enough public pressure to bear that the U.S. Congress, which had spent the past century vigorously failing to pass anti-lynching legislation, finally found the backbone to pass the Voting Rights Act.
The following year Clark was voted out of office, largely because of the attack that day. Clark’s sole remaining act of historical interest came 12 years later. In 1978, he and six others were indicted by a federal grand jury in Montgomery on charges of conspiring to smuggle marijuana. He was convicted and spent about nine months in prison.
I am certainly not the only person to be surprised on news of his death by the fact that he was still alive.