THE BLOG
06/27/2013 03:15 am ET Updated Aug 27, 2013

Selma Remembered

March 7, 1965 -- I vividly remember that bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge leading out of Selma, Alabama when some 600 civil rights marchers heading for the state capitol in Montgomery were stopped by club-wielding state troopers, deputy sheriffs and other hired hands. I was a CBS News correspondent covering the march amid the tear gas and standing not far from John Lewis, the head of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who had his head seriously beaten by the so-called law enforcement officers.

Lewis survived and went on to a career as a distinguished congressman from Georgia in the U.S. Congress where he still serves. I am proud to call him a friend. I then made the march, as it continued alongside Martin Luther King who was questioning me about Vietnam from where I had just returned on re-assignment. Along the highway, we passed angry rednecks who were holding up signs and shouting disgusting racial remarks at the passing marchers.

The following day, I co-anchored with Dallas Townsend the network's radio coverage in Montgomery as the marchers passed the state capitol when I heard King deliver a memorable speech in which he said they were there to remind a society to live with its conscience. "How long will it take? he asked," however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long and we're not going back."

That evening, after having dinner with CBS Vice-President Gordon Manning when I got word that Viola Liuzzo, a volunteer marcher from Detroit, was murdered on the highway leading back to Selma. The shock was almost too much to digest.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote Tuesday's decision was too young to have been in Alabama in 1965 to remember or to have experienced those dramatic days as so many of us did. But, the record shows that even from the time he was an adult Midwesterner working for President Ronald Reagan, Roberts sought ways to overturn the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act that President Lyndon Johnson proudly signed into law.

I have digested the reasoning underscoring the decision the Chief Justice and his fellow Republican judges have rendered the past few days. In my opinion, they have chosen to ignore history and argue that change has made the legislation irrelevant when in fact many attempts have been made by the GOP in recent times to circumvent the rights of African-Americans attempting to vote in elections since the march from Selma. It is sad, terribly sad, especially to see a political party damage itself so much when a vibrant two-party system is what makes democracy work.

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