November 5th, 2008
06:36 PM ET

Commentary: My father, George Wallace, and Barack Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/05/art.peggy.jpg]
Peggy Wallace Kennedy
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Peggy Wallace Kennedy is the daughter of George C. Wallace and Lurleen Wallace, who both were governors of Alabama.

I heard a car door slam behind me and turned to see an elderly but spry woman heading my way.

The night before, a gang of vandals had swept through the cemetery desecrating graves, crushing headstones and stealing funereal objects.

My parents' graves, situated on a wind-swept hill overlooking the cemetery, had not been spared. A large marble urn that stood between two granite columns had been pried loose and spirited away, leaving faded silk flowers strewn on the ground.

I was holding a bouquet of them in my arms when the woman walked up and gave me a crushing hug. "Honey," she said, "you don't know me, but when I saw you standing up here on this hill, I knew that you must be one of the girls and I couldn't help myself but to drive up here and let you know how much me and my whole family loved both of your parents. They were real special people."

I thanked her for her kind words as we stood side by side gazing down at the graves of Govs. George Wallace and Lurleen Wallace.

After a few moments, the woman leaned into me and spoke almost in a conspiratorial whisper. "I never thought I would live to see the day when a black would be running for president. I know your daddy must be rolling over in his grave."

Not having the heart or the energy to respond, I gave her bony arm a slight squeeze, turned and walked away. As I put the remnants of the graveyard spray in the trunk of my car, I assumed that she had not bothered to notice the Barack Obama sticker on my bumper.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Adriana RM Marietta,Ga

    Faith in humans can go a long way.

    November 5, 2008 at 8:53 pm |
  2. marydth

    Dear Peggy,

    I am a bi-racial women whose roots run deeply into the soil of Alabama. My Uncles stood with conviction on the bridge at Selma. They proudly wore their helmets and weilded their battons so certain in the righteousness of their actions. As a child, they never seemed to realize how painful it was when they regailed me with stories of their service to your father or their attempts to prevent desegregation. Today, these men have either passed on or are bent and frail and wandering in their minds. It is my fervert hope that somewhere in their thoughts they have come to realize what terrible acts they actively participated in. Thank you so much for your thoughtful article and for giving me hope for the people I love (often in spite of myself).

    November 5, 2008 at 8:46 pm |
  3. Michelle from Iowa

    Now, the day after our first bi-racial President has been elected, people are already speculating if Barack Obama will survive his first term. Unfortunately, White Supremecy is still alive behind the scenes. Resurgence of this hate group will occur only because those with a vested interest want it to happen, they are capable of prompting the events to occur. These actions will only bring shame to the rest of us and perpetuate our world-wide status as a nation of terrorists. We are in the 21st century. It is time to grow up, and evolve beyond the fear and ignorance that has held many of us back for so long. These attitudes belong in the past and the election of Obama signifies a change in a way of thinking that will hopefully show the evolution and maturity we as a collective society need to embrace. The future will not hold sway to the old prejudices and stereotypes that few have profited from at the expense of many. It's time to realize that change is here and well overdue; this is our hope as to what else the future may hold in the months and years to come. I applaud you, Peggy Wallace Kennedy !

    November 5, 2008 at 8:40 pm |
  4. Rose from Muscoy, Calif

    I am very proud of our country, knowing the struggles that Bobby Kennedy, and Rev. Martin L. King faced when I was a child in 1968. The Civil Rights movement was for my future and future generations. To bad my best friend Sheila who was black wasn't here to see this historic election. But I do believe she did in spirit.

    November 5, 2008 at 8:34 pm |
  5. Don, WA

    Good writing Peggy Wallace Kennedy...I imagine your father is proud...and sometimes a lifetime is'nt quite enough to see things the way they should be. Maybe the lady who's arm you squeezed had a thoughtful walk back to her car...it was a wind swept hill where the people of yesterday still speak.

    November 5, 2008 at 8:33 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    Very thought provoking post. I hadn't thought of George Wallace in years but I can remember him defending segregation and then later seeing the error of his ways and coming full circle to support the civil rights cause he once so vehemently resisted. His example showed a great many of us that someone in politics could change their mind and cross over from the low road they were on to the high road and use their connections and position to help further the cause. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    November 5, 2008 at 7:46 pm |
  7. Craig A. Davis Sr.

    As an African American man born in 1965, I've heard about George Wallace's famous inaugural speech on segregation. Hurtful and demeaning to those African Americans that fought for just a fair playing field, it was a tear jerker to read this informative article. Which goes to show that America has come a long way.

    Thank you for writing this article Ms. Wallace Kennedy. May god bless you and America!

    Craig A. Davis Sr.
    Detroit, MI

    November 5, 2008 at 7:26 pm |
  8. Reeky Lane, NC

    Let the new light shine on this nation, we have finally surpassed the era of racism and the new generation is our beacon of hope.

    November 5, 2008 at 7:11 pm |
  9. Joy, Fort Gordon, Georgia

    As a historian it is interesting to see how far we have come and how each generation has grown concerning perceptions of race and racism, I can say that I found this article enlightening and heartening as a human being.

    November 5, 2008 at 6:47 pm |