The proud state of Alabama was on the brink of a historic change and all that stood in the way of progress was hard-nosed Gov. George C. Wallace.
Wallace had promised the white Alabamans who elected him by a landslide that he would never let blacks integrate their schools.
I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever, Wallace declared when he took office in January 1963.
And when a federal judge ordered the University of Alabama to integrate, Wallace saw an opportunity to make good on his vow and defend an old order shaken to its core by blacks demanding to be treated like equals.
That was how Wallace came to be standing at the door of Foster Auditorium on June 11, 1963 and barring the way of two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood.
Oddly enough, Wallace would probably never have gotten the chance to take that futile stand had it not been for black Alabamans.
When Wallace first ran for governor in 1958, he was endorsed by of all things the NAACP. He decried the naked appeals to racism made by his opponent, who had been backed by the Ku Klux Klan.
But after Wallace lost in the Democratic primary, he did an about face and vowed he would never be outn------d again.