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  • Gary Mauney

The Power of Perseverance

Charlotte Attorney Gary Mauney on how our law exists to do justice. And how our right to vote exists to preserve it.

I recently came across these two photos from May 3, 1966. These photos illustrate the power of the law to do good, the power of the vote to effect justice, and the importance of voters' access to the ballot box.

Waiting in line to Vote - One year after the 1965 Voting Rights Act became the law of the land.
Alabama - May 3, 1966 | Brave Americans waiting in line to vote | One year after passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act
Dallas County (Selma), Alabama Sheriff Jim Clark

In 1965, President Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act. On May 3, 1966, the brave, persevering, and inspiring African-American voters from Alabama in this photo stood in line for hours, for the first time, and at great risk of peril to themselves, to, among other things, vote Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark out of office.

Just one year before, in 1965, Sheriff Clark had fractured his hand when he slugged civil rights leader C.T. Vivian in the face for trying to register about 40 marchers at the Selma courthouse. Sheriff Clark used a cattle prod and a club on other voters trying to do the same. But these voters persevered. And in 1966, these brave Americans used the power of the law and the ballot box to vote out Sheriff Clark.

Following his defeat at the hands of those brave Alabama voters, Sheriff Clark was later indicted for mail fraud (he pleaded no contest), and in 1978, he was sentenced to two years in federal prison for conspiring to smuggle three tons of marijuana from Columbia, South America.

Every time I see the photo of these voters from May 3, 1966, great Americans all, I am inspired. I thank them for what they did. They illustrate the importance of elections, and the role the law should take to protect - and not deter or impede - access for all Americans to the ballot box.


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