Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Montage of images and link description. George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
The Film & More
Reference
Interview Transcripts | Primary Sources Documents | Further Reading

J.L. Chestnut, Civil Rights activist, on
the shooting

J.L. Chestnut Q:When did you hear about the shooting? What was your reaction?

A: I was in a courtroom in Selma, trying a case, and somebody came in and said that Wallace had been shot, and that they thought he was dead. And we had a break about ten minutes later. And I went downstairs where there was a television set. It was all over the news that he'd been shot, but that he was still alive and all of that. And I felt sorry for him, but I was not surprised. You just can't go around preaching hatred, however you cloak it, however you dress it up, and somehow or another, it will not come back to bite you. The fact that he had lasted as long as he did was, I thought, almost a miracle. You must remember that this man created a climate in which all kinds of violence took place. Awful things happened to people. I've always understood that when you set certain forces into motion, you never know how it'll come back and all of that. So I wasn't surprised that he had been shot. What I was hoping, in a manner, was that some crazy black man had not shot him, because I didn't know what kind of impact that would have. Blacks are not noted for shooting politicians and all that. That's something white Americans do. But we were changing, too. The country was changing. And my apprehension was that might have been some black man who had done that, and then we found out that no, that it was some crazy white man who had shot him. And black people are very forgiving people. They were all around Selma that day. Folk, who disliked George Wallace intensely were praying that he would recover. They didn't want him dead. There was no rejoicing among black Alabamians that George Wallace had been shot. But there was a lot of, "The chickens have come home to roost." You heard that everywhere. As a matter of fact, some black preachers said it the following Sunday from the pulpit.

previous | back to Interview Transcripts | next


Program Description | Program Transcript | Reference

The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline | Maps | People & Events | Teacher's Guide
The American Experience | Kids | Feedback | Search | Shop | Subscribe

©  New content 2000 PBS Online / WGBH

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: