In March 1965, several men and women in Alabama tested President Lyndon Johnson’s legendary political skills. Martin Luther King, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, John Lewis, and hundreds of other activists exposed the brutality of white supremacy in Selma, while Governor George Wallace was orchestrating his own responses in Montgomery. As the president struggled to satisfy the demonstrators’ demands for voting rights, the notoriously brutal Al Lingo of the state police and Sheriff Jim Clark of Dallas County (where Selma was the county seat) and the arch-segregationist Governor Wallace made the balancing act even more difficult. In particular, over a two week period, Wallace retreated on his word, made inflammatory statements, and blamed the President for problems.
On August 20, 1965, Jonathan Daniels and several other civil rights activists wanted to buy a coke after getting out of jail. A few minutes later, the 26-year-old Episcopal seminary student lay dead in Alabama, having stepped in front of a shotgun blast intended for a fellow activist, Ruby Sales.