JOHN PATTERSON

IN THE WAKE OF THE ASSASSINS

 

Music:   Craig McConnell

 

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       When thirty-three year old John Patterson came home from the army after service in both World War II and the Korean War, he wanted only to open up a law practice and have a good life.   But when four shots rang out on the night of June 18, 1954, his life changed forever.   His father Albert Patterson had been nominated attorney general of the state of Alabama on a platform of cleaning up the mob-controlled town of Phenix City.  Within a few days after his primary victory, Albert Patterson was brutally murdered outside his office.   John Patterson felt he had no choice but to take his father's place as the state's attorney general, finish the cleanup his father had set out to do, and hunt down his father's killers.         

          Finding himself suddenly in the limelight, Patterson would run for governor in 1958 -- a year in which race became the dominant issue in Alabama politics.  As governor, Patterson was successful in enacting progressive measures in education, eliminating the loan sharks who preyed on the poor, and cleaning up government corruption.  But his campaign promises to resist segregation would come back to haunt him.  Patterson, a staunch liberal on most issues, would support John F. Kennedy for president, only to find himself a short time later in a dramatic confrontation with the Kennedy administration over civil rights.  In May 1961, Alabama was the scene of a shocking outbreak of violence against the "freedom riders" who had come South to demonstrate against segregation in bus stations.

         John Patterson's story, related in the film by Patterson himself and many other figures of that era, bridges a time of dramatic change in Alabama and U.S. history.