As part of our celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Rotary Club of Madison, Jerry Thain and Rich Leffler are publishing original documents from the Club’s archives and other sources. We hope that these documents will recall for you the rich history of the Club and the times during this momentous century.
This week, Jerry Thain provides the following history piece:
The Rotary Club of Madison has had many famous people speak to it over the years. Possibly the most surprising name among the list of speakers is that of Alabama Governor George Wallace, whose February 1964 talk was an attack on the pending Civil Rights Bill that was enacted by Congress later that year. Since it was almost universally thought that some version of the civil rights bill that had been strongly promoted by President Lyndon Johnson was certain to be passed, political observers believed that Wallace’s purpose in speaking against it around the nation was not so much to block enactment of the bill as to start promoting himself as a future candidate for President. That campaign, of course, was ended when he was seriously wounded by a would-be assassain’s bullet in 1968.
I trust it goes without saying that this post is in no way an endorsement of the arguments by Wallace but simply the citing of a notable moment in our Club’s history. The Wisconsin State Journal reported picketing took place outside the meeting and there was a report of a supposed assassination plot as well. As most know, Wallace later recanted many of his earlier views on civil rights and ran for Governor on a different platform.