As American as Apple Pie: Shooting Gabrielle Giffords

It started with a Facebook post by Bob Rogers, a photographer I worked with in Athens, Ohio, back in the late 60s: “Extremists win by murder. Gabrielle Giffords shot this morning. I hope all who preach hate are happy. You are succeeding in tearing apart our once great country.”

I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know who Garbrielle Giffords was at first. I had to search for the first cryptic stories on Google news to discover she was an Arizona Congresswoman who had been marked by crosshairs on a Sarah Palin website and had beaten a Tea Party candidate who liked to campaign by letting his followers shoot automatic weapons. Bob, who knew her from her work on cycling projects called her a “great centrist public servant.”

As the news reports trickled in, I couldn’t tell if she was dead or alive and the toll of dead and wounded kept fluctuating. I still don’t know the final count.

Two quotes crossed my mind. H. Rap Br own, the black activist of the 1960s, who coined the phrase, “Violence is as American as apple pie,” and a verse from John Fogerty’s anti-war song, Deja Vu (All Over Again):

Did you hear ’em talkin’ ’bout it on the radio
Did you try to read the writing on the wall
Did that voice inside you say I’ve heard it all before
It’s like Deja Vu all over again

John F. Kennedy 1963

I’ve written before about my memories of the JFK assassination. This was our generation’s loss of innocence.

Martin Luther King 1968

I was photo editor of The Ohio University Post in 1968 when Martin Luther King was shot in Memphis. When I wrote about a Peter, Paul and Mary Concert, fellow campus reporter Carol Towarnicky reminded me that the concert was the night after MLK was killed.

She shared her recollection of the night, “my personal memory of that was that there was some kind of big meeting on campus — wasn’t there always? — and i was alone at the post since i was the campus editor – when i got a call from one of the editors at The Messenger. Their AP (Associated Press teletype) was turned off for the evening and he said he had heard a rumor about King being shot and would i check — and i was just about to get up from my chair when i heard the bells for a bulletin..”

What I most remember was how close the university came to violence. Several hundred black students staged a sit-in in the middle of the major intersection in town. That wasn’t unusual, but an Athens police captain whose face was usually as red as his neck wasn’t going to tolerate black  folks doing that.

He was about to have his men wade into the crowd with billy clubs swinging when a university administrator offered to defuse the situation. He pulled one of the student leaders aside and asked how long the student thought they were going to sit there to prove their point. There was some give and take, then the administrator when back to the captain and said, “Give them X minutes and they’ll move on peacefully.” Fortunately, that’s what happened.

Robert F. Kennedy 1968

We had just put the paper to bed and a bunch of us decided to walk down town to Jake’s, the only place open late at night. It was known best for its night fry cook, a woman so large she could barely fit between the counter and the grill. When she walked, she was so short of breath her mouth would bite chunks of air like a guppy on its last fins. After having a burger with her special sauce – she dripped sweat onto the grill the whole the time she cooked – we headed back to the office to call it a night.

A student ran up and said that RFK had just been shot. We thought he was kidding or drunk until we got back and checked the wires.

I can’t wait until I get to my negatives of that era. I shot some memorable photos of students reacting to the news of those two murders.

George Wallace 1972

I was chief photographer at The Gastonia Gazette when the news of the attempt on George Wallace’s life came across the wires.

I had just spent several days on the campaign trail with North Carolina governor Terry Sanford, who was a long-shot candidate for president. I really liked the guy. He and Florida Governor / Senator Bob Graham were two men I always hoped would end up in The Big Seat. I hoped that Wallace dropping out of the race might boost Sanford’s chances, but that wasn’t to be.

Gerald Ford 1975 (Twice)

The odd thing about the attempts on Gerald Ford’s life is that I don’t have any strong recollections of covering anything related to them. Maybe by that time shooting political figures had become so commonplace it stopped being something you remembered.

About the only thing I remember about Gerald Ford was when he came to South Florida to campaign for a term of his own. It was a tough sell because a lot of folks hadn’t forgiven him for pardoning Richard Nixon.

The day was unseasonably cold for Florida and there was a steady rain falling as he made it down the coast from one end of the region to the other. I looked at him as he drove by in an open convertible, soaked to the skin by the cold rain, but still waving at everyone he passed. “This guy really WANTS this job,” I recalled thinking.

I ended up voting for him. After the dark Dick Nixon days, I thought he was an honorable man who did what he thought was best for the country, even though it was probably political suicide.

Ronald Reagan 1981

Former President Richard Nixon was supposed to speak at some kind of gathering in Palm Beach. Representatives of the organization, security folks and the local media were meeting to work out the details of the visit when I got a radio call that President Reagan had been shot.

We media types looked at each other, came to the conclusion that a possibly dead current President was a bigger story than a future visit from a disgraced ex-President, so there was a bolt for the doors.

Let’s dial back the hate speech

“We know that silence equals consent when atrocities are committed against innocent men, women and children. We know that indifference equals complicity when bigotry, hatred and intolerance are allowed to take root. And we know that education and hope are the most effective ways to combat ignorance and despair.” ~ Gabrielle Giffords

In one of the rare instances of civility in the last presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain took the microphone away from a woman who said that Barack Obama was “an Arab,”and countered a man who said he was “scared…to bring up a child under an Obama presidency: “I have to tell you that he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States. He’s a decent family man that I happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. There’s a difference between rhetoric and record, but you can still be respectful. I will point out his record and I will do it with respect.”

His comments were met with boos.

Did that voice inside you say I’ve heard it all before
It’s like Deja Vu all over again


Before Glenn Beck: Carl McIntire

Glenn Beck and his “Restoring Honor” rally, held on the same stage where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech 47 years to the day, takes me back to an earlier conservative firebrand, Carl McIntire.

[Editor’s note: in case the search engines bring in some folks who don’t normally hang out here, this is a non-political blog dealing with coming of age in a small town in the Midwest in the 60s. Freedom of the Press belongs to he who has one, so I reserve the right to close out comments that produce more heat than light. I’m departing from normal Cape content just because I like some of these pictures and they’re topical.]

How we ended up at a Pro-Viet Nam War march

I was working as chief photographer for The Gastonia (N.C.) Gazette in the early 70s. When I took the job, I was in my early 20s (VERY early 20s) and wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with a inheriting a staff that had a photographer on it who was more than twice my age and had had no formal training.

As it turned out, Kermit not only didn’t resent some young Yankee whippersnapper coming in, he welcomed the chance to learn new skills. As a reward, I took him with me to a photojournalism conference in Washington, D.C. I don’t think either of us had been to D.C. before, so we were pretty much the tourists.

I spotted a newspaper story that said that some preacher named Carl McIntire was going to lead a Pro-Viet Nam “Victory March” down to the Capitol. I had covered plenty of anti-war protests, so I thought this would be a change, and definitely a new experience for Kermit.

The Washington March started in the rain

October 24, 1971, was a chilly, rainy, miserable day for a demonstration, but a fair number of people showed up to march. McIntire organized about half of dozen of these marches in the early 70s. One account said that as many as 14,000 people showed up for one of them. This one might have attracted a couple thousand, at most.

Harry Britton, Husband’s Lib advocate

To be fair, Harry Britton of Erie, PA, wasn’t actually part of the march; he was just along the route. New York Magazine wrote that he was a fixture who had been supporting himself wearing placards, carrying signs and selling his leaflets for 25 cents each for several years. “Harry makes only $2,000 a year. He’s not in this for the money, though; he says his only goal is reconciliation with his wife, from whom he is, not surprisingly, separated.”

Another account said he was the “president (and probably sole member) of the National Association of Dissatisfied Husbands subsisting on sales of publications extolling ‘Husband Lib.(‘It’s not men’s lib,it’s Husband Lib. The Bachelors are not oppressed yet’).”

Civility in Protest

I was surprised to see the reaction of the boy carrying the flag next to the man in the wheelchair. When he passed the local hippie contingent, dressed in the standard uniform of army surplus clothing, he answered their peace sign with one of his own. Yep, BOTH fingers are showing.

McIntire: “Fundamentalist with a flair”

Mr. President DO NOT GO or Sell Us Out to RED CHINA or MOSCOW Against Liberty!Many of the marchers were protesting President Nixon’s overtures to the Chinese.

Christianity Today described Carl McIntire as a “fundamentalist with a flair.”

The story continued, “Throughout his career, McIntire was a tireless crusader against communists, whom he suspected of lurking everywhere, from mainline Protestantism to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS); he cooperated with the staff of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Over the years, McIntire expanded his list of enemies to include Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Martin Luther King Jr., antiwar protesters, feminists, the U.S. Postal Service, and the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, among many others.”

McIntire challenged Fairness Doctrine

Never one to run from a fight, McIntire ran afoul of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine when he refused to allow dissenting views to run on his radio show, The Twentieth Century Reformation Hour. The program was heard on as many as 600 stations (depending on your source).

When the FCC refused to renew McIntire’s radio station license in 1973, he came up with Plan B. He fitted a wooden World War II era mine sweeper with a radio transmitter and sailed it out beyond the three-mile limit near Cape May.

Radio Free America

“Radio Free America” broadcast for just ten hours. He was shut down because he was interfering with a commercial radio station on an adjacent frequency. (A more interesting version has the broadcast coming to end end because the overheated antenna feed line started to catch the wooden vessel on fire.)

This is a man who doesn’t Tweet

Shooting photos of strange-looking people at demonstrations is like shooting fish in a barrel. I would rather photograph someone with substance, like this man. (That’s not to say that I didn’t include some rather odd-looking folks in the gallery.)

I’ve always liked the quiet dignity projected by this man. I don’t know what his beliefs were, and I am not sure if I’d agree with them, but I respected the calm way he returned my gaze.

Blacks marching for prayer in school

Most of the participants were white, older folks, but a number of blacks marched to support prayer and Bible reading in school.

Whites oppose “bussing”

McIntire opposed the civil rights movement. His supporters carried signs opposing “bussing.” That’s a little confusing, because “busing” is when you put students on a bus to take them to school. “Bussing” is kissing, according to the AP Stylebook.

So, I’m not sure if they are opposing kissing (likely) or a transportation system (also likely).

Capitol makes picture-perfect background

These folks were prepared for bad weather. I like the friendly wave from the woman in the middle.

Then, the Victory March was over

McIntire continued to hold his Victory Marches until 1972.

On April 30, 1975, at 8:35 a.m., the last Americans, ten Marines from the embassy, departed Saigon, concluding the U.S. presence in Vietnam.

King to McIntire to Beck

What do Martin Luther King, Carl McIntire and Glenn Beck have in common?

They all have the right to say their piece in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln.

Washington Memorial

Victory March Photo Gallery

I tried to treat everyone with respect, even if I found their views repugnant. I hope that comes across in this photo gallery. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.