Get High on Life

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 23, 1998

By Harold Keller / L’Observateur / September 23, 1998

Last week, as I entered one of the local business establishments, a long- time friend of mine, who happened to be a black man, greeted me. Iautomatically asked him how he was doing and he said, “Not too good. Myuncle died yesterday.” I then asked the natural question, “Which uncle?””My Uncle George,” he smilingly said, referring to George Wallace, the ex- governor of Alabama and two-time unsuccessful candidate for president of the United States.

George Wallace was, as one reporter described him, “a great villain of the civil rights struggle.” He stood at the doorway of a school to block blackstudents from entering. When inaugurated as governor, he said,”Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”George Wallace was 79 when he died. Twenty-six years ago he was shot,crippled and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

I tried to tell my friend that Mr. Wallace made amends for his wrongs andthat many blacks that knew him best said he was sincere. My friend didn’tbuy that. He said, “Yeah, he got mellow after he got shot.” I thenresponded, “But, remember, when things like that happen in your life, you either get bitter or better. George Wallace, in my opinion, got better. Headmitted his sins, asked the people he had offended to forgive him, and asked God’s forgiveness.”As we continued our talk, I decided to make a comparison between George Wallace, Bill Clinton and I threw in another name, Jimmy Swaggart. BillClinton and Jimmy Swaggart got caught and tried to make amends. I don’tthink their appeal for mercy was sincere. (That’s my discernment.)On the other hand, I think George Wallace’s sin was an open book. He didn’tget caught being a segregationalist – he was open and arrogant about it. Itwasn’t until he searched his heart that he realized he was wrong. Headmitted his wrongs and asked the very people he had harmed to forgive him. He not only asked forgiveness but, in my opinion and the opinion ofmany, blacks and whites, he truly repented.

Repent not only means that you are sorry; it also means to change. Godchanged George Wallace’s heart, not only toward the blacks, but also toward the man who was responsible for shooting and crippling him. Infact, he wrote to the man who shot him and told him that he wanted him to know that he forgave him. This is what a changed heart will go. GeorgeWallace not only asked forgiveness, but he forgave the man who had him sentenced to a wheelchair for 26 years. That’s godly action!I certainly don’t feel sorry for George Wallace. His life is over and itseemed that he was at peace with himself and God. I hope that BillClinton, Jimmy Swaggart, my friend and I will be so prepared when we meet our Creator.

Harold Keller is a regular columnist for L’Observateur.

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