Opinion

Remembering Bull Connor … accurately

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Ray Hartwell
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      Ray Hartwell

      Ray Hartwell is a partner in the Washington office of a major law firm, where he specializes in competition law and white collar criminal matters. Over the past decade he has also served as a trustee of his alma mater, a leading liberal arts college. He is a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, having served as antisubmarine warfare and nuclear weapons officer aboard a guided missile destroyer. His opinion articles have appeared in various publications, including The Washington Times and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The views he expresses are his alone. He can be reached at rayhartwell@rocketmail.com.

Chris Matthews, a Democrat who favors civility when it suits him, has quipped that Texas governor Rick Perry is “Bull Connor with a smile.” This is the “Hardball” punch line to an MSNBC campaign of vilification against Perry, built around deceptively edited clips designed to support the argument that the Texas governor and presidential candidate is a “racist.”

Of course, the media water-carriers for the Obama administration have long since “maxed out” the race card. But Matthews’ effort to portray Perry as the reincarnation of the infamous Bull Connor deserves a short comment. Specifically, we should remember Bull Connor for what he was, and what he was not.

Bull Connor was a Democrat. As the public safety commissioner of Birmingham, Alabama, it was at his command that civil rights protestors were attacked by dogs and beaten back by high-powered streams from fire hoses. One did not have to fabricate evidence that he was a racist.

Bull Connor was also a member of the Democratic National Committee. That’s the governing board of the national Democratic Party, the one currently chaired by Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She’s the ever-civil, understated lady who says Republicans are using “violent movie clips” to push “their people to inflict pain and hurt people.” But I digress. We were talking about Bull Connor, whose minions — unlike the Republicans maligned by Ms. Schultz — really did hurt people.

It bears noting as well that Bull Connor was not only a member of the Democratic National Committee, but also of the Ku Klux Klan. And when Klansmen attacked Freedom Riders in Birmingham with bats and metal pipes, Connor allowed the beating to go on for 15 minutes without police interference. No arrests were made at the scene, but the pain and hurt inflicted were real.

Connor was active in the Democratic Party at the same time that Senators Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Albert Gore, Sr. of Tennessee were leading the opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Connor was no doubt pleased that 80 percent of the “no” votes on that bill in the U.S. Senate, and 75 percent of the opposition in the House, came from Democrats.

Bull Connor lived and died a Democrat.

Unlike Rick Perry, Bull Connor was not a Republican.

Ray Hartwell is a Navy veteran and a Washington lawyer. He can be reached at rayhartwell@rocketmail.com.

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  • Anonymous

    what a worthless article, bull connor was a democrat. then the democrats adopted civil rights and all the southern conservatives became republicans

    • Anonymous

      the party democrat co-opted civil rights, they have never adapted to or adopted them.  Ever wonder why there is a need for the Congressional Black Caucus when they are part and parsal of the party Democrat?  Name one Black in the Democrat leadership inner circle.

  • http://twitter.com/mjh4259 Mary

    Well said.  Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/aemoreira81 Adam Moreira

    The Democrats by and large did not agree with Bull Connor; however, in the North, they were powerless to do much to stop him.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_B5344MYI6BXUL36ADKK3JBTPJA GJPinks

      Did you miss the part explaining that over 75% of the votes AGAINST the civil rights law were Democratics? (If it is the Democratic Party, members are Democratics)

      • http://twitter.com/aemoreira81 Adam Moreira

        Misleading claim…don’t believe me? Check the votes by region.

  • John A Lucas6

    Attention all hands. attention all hands. Stand by for hate mail NOW!