Signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. [LBJ Library photo #A1030-19a by Yoichi Okamoto]

Luci Baines Johnson participates in commemorative march

Mar 05, 2013

by Brian Lyman and Sebastian Kitchen
[published in the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser on March 3, 2013]

Vice President Joe Biden apologized twice Sunday -- first to an audience in a college gym, then to a crowd at the foot of the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge. Both were gathered to commemorate "Bloody Sunday," when Alabama troopers and Selma, Ala., law enforcement beat back civil rights marchers on March 7, 1965.

"I feel a lot of guilt, like many in my generation, that I could have been here, I should have been here 48 years ago," he said at the Martin and Coretta King Unity Brunch on Sunday morning, saying he remembered watching the scenes of troopers and deputies shooting tear gas at the nonviolent marchers, trampling them with horses and beating them with clubs. "But I wanted my daughter (and) my sister to be with me here 48 years later."

Biden said not coming to Selma to support the civil rights activists was one of the regrets in his life.

The vice president joined more than two dozen members of Congress, civil rights leaders, and some of the original marchers for the annual commemoration of Bloody Sunday. Before marching across the bridge, the vice president was joined on a stage at the foot of the bridge by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., an Alabama native who was beaten trying to cross the bridge, and Rep. Terri Sewell, a Selma native who became the first black woman elected to Congress from Alabama in 2010.

With the protection of federal troops, protesters eventually marched more than 50 miles from Selma to Montgomery. After people in the nation watched the brutal attacks in news reports, Congress passed and President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which created protection for minority voters and which activists are currently fighting to keep intact. Johnson's daughter, Luci Baines Johnson, participated in Sunday's activities. read more