Today, March 21, 2015, marks the 50th anniversary of the final of the three historic Selma-to-Montgomery marches protesting voting discrimination in the South.
During the first march, held March 7, the nation was shocked as it bore witness to the unchecked brutality Alabama state troopers unleashed upon peaceful marchers. The violence resulted in 2,000 U.S. troops joining 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard to keep the peace during the final day of protest.
But in the lead up to that day, President Lyndon Johnson had to lobby Alabama Governor George Wallace to call up the National Guard. In this March 18, 1965, phone call, Wallace insists that state authorities could handle the situation, while allowing that he couldn’t promise that “nobody’s gonna get hit by a rock.”
He uses the JFK assassination to make his point (begins at the 11:00 minute mark):
“It’s almost impossible to guarantee that somebody, one person ain’t gonna get hit with a rock,” Wallace says. “You know, the president of our nation was slain with all that protection he had over in Texas. Just sometimes can’t guarantee that nobody’s gonna get hit with a rock or something because if they can’t protect our president from being brutally slain, why sometimes it’s hard to keep somebody from getting hit with a rock…”
“Governor, that’s your right…” LBJ responds. “Course … if we could’ve anticipated, had any idea something like this might’ve happened, well we might’ve had a guard out. We know we got trouble ahead here. We can see it coming.”