03/04/2013 02:34 pm ET Updated May 04, 2013

Remembering the Voting Rights Act

The trouble with history is time. Lost time. Too many people tinker with history and if they have no memory, the facts and remembrances of a significant event tend to get lost or twisted.

Take the anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to which I was an eyewitness as a CBS News correspondent in 1965. I have been reading about the anniversary of that historic event; that is, the showdown at the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the Alabama police attacked the marchers and nearly killed my old friend, Representative John Lewis, the noble Civil Rights leader, by beating him senseless.

My late colleague, Nelson Benton, got on the air with the event, and I followed shortly thereafter. Sometime before, an angry bunch of rednecks came up to me and my cameraman, Wendell Hoffman, and spit in his camera lens. We had it carried live on the air to show the disgusting attitude of some Selma residents who opposed the demands of citizens to win passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that President Lyndon Johnson eventually signed into law. That law has stood for 49 years. Having joined with my colleague, the late Dallas Townsend, in the joint nationwide radio broadcast of the march from Selma, I walked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. at that time and never forgot his ringing declaration as the marchers passed the state capitol building. Governor George Wallace looked out of his office and listened.

I find myself disgusted by the southerners and Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia who continue to nitpick at the legitimacy of the historic legislation that ensures African Americans the right to vote. Those malcontents still can't get it. The Civil War is over. The law stands proud and mighty as testimony that there are certain moments in the life of the nation when the law remains as it was intended to stand. That's what the distinguished panel of Federal Judges had in mind when they upheld the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That's when we mourned the death of Viola Liuzzo, the volunteer worker from Detroit whose murder I covered by a racist gang on Highway 80. I still grieve for the dedicated people who marched for greater freedom -- people like John Lewis and the late Martin Luther King Jr. I pity those who have forgotten that legacy and the giants who urged the nation toward greater acts of dignity.