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J.L. Chestnut, Civil Rights activist, on
the scene during the 1960s

J.L. Chestnut Q:Is Wallace to blame for inflaming the atmosphere back then?

A: I don't have any doubt had Wallace not been on the scene in the 1960s, things would have been vastly different. Wallace has continued to deny, to this day, that he gave the order to attack blacks marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. It really does not matter whether he gave the order because he created, more than any other single person, the climate which permitted that sort of thing. I hate to say that you could blame Wallace for the misfits that bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, but it would be wrong not to say that he contributed mightily to the climate that pushed extremists to do these kind of things. Once you set these motions, or set the atmosphere for these kind of motions to get loose in a society, you have to stand up and take the blame. I don't believe that Wallace, at heart, was a bad man as such. But I think like many men in the history of the human race, the pursuit of power, as Lord Acton says, about corrupting absolutely, I think it occurred to him. Wallace and Richard Nixon had a whole lot in common. Both pursued power to insane extents. Wallace, I don't think, even enjoyed power after he achieved it. He didn't like governing. He didn't like being governor. He liked running for governor. And he was always running, always acting. And always doing whatever it took to promote his political fortunes. And when you do that, you have to bear the blame for some awful things that happened. And in my lifetime, I have seen some terrible things. That legacy continues to this day.

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