Bob Simpson

Bob Simpson
Oak Park, Illinois, United States
August 05
Retired history teacher and former web production guy
Webtrax Studio
So who is this guy? Well, my name is Bob “Bobbo” Simpson.I am a retired teacher and former web production guy. I am also 1/2 of the Carol Simpson labor cartoon team.

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APRIL 9, 2012 10:18PM

Busted by an Alabama State Trooper------in Maryland?

Rate: 7 Flag

 My petty crime arrest story...

For George Corley Wallace, his 1972 Presidential campaign swing through Maryland was one seriously bad trip. He was met by riots in Hagerstown and Frederick, by loud counter demonstrations at Wheaton Plaza and Capital Plaza near DC and was seriously wounded by  gunfire in Laurel. And me? I managed to get myself arrested by an Alabama state trooper ------in Maryland no less.

Although mostly forgotten now, Wallace was the Halley’s Comet of the neo-confederate universe in the 1960’s, trailing a constellation of stars and bars behind him. As governor of Alabama he stood in front of the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama in 1962 in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent its desegregation by  black students. 

At his 1963 gubernatorial inauguration he vowed,”Segregation Now. Segregation Tomorrow! Segregation Forever!” When segregation was outlawed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he changed his rhetoric to the racial coded language that has inspired generations of Republican politicians from Richard Nixon to Newt Gingrich.

When he ran for President in 1964 and 1968, Wallace got a substantial vote from rural and moderate income white Maryland voters, but he also met with strong opposition. Maryland is a border state and contested terrain, south of the Mason Dixon Line, but north of the Old Confederacy. A former slave state, Maryland was the site of the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of the Civil War. Gettysburg PA is nearby. Even in 1972, the sight of a Confederate flag in  Maryland set off strong, even violent emotions, both for and against; and so did the presence of George Corley Wallace.

He was running in the Democratic primary for President and he was expected to carry the state.

I was writing for a local underground paper and we organized a bunch of people to confront him at both Wheaton Plaza and Capital Plaza. These were not upscale malls but older shopping centers that catered to lower middle class shoppers. We knew we would be probably be outnumbered by Wallace supporters, but we didn’t care. 

As a former Wheaton resident, I felt bad about having to miss the Wheaton Plaza event, but I was able to make it to Capital Plaza in nearby Prince George’s (PG) County, a Wallace stronghold. I was driving a delivery truck then, so with magic markers, poster board and my limited art skills I made a sign that read “Truck Driver Against Wallace.” I knew that would get some attention.

A bunch of us drove over to Capital Plaza where several hundred enthusiastic Wallace supporters were swaying to country music, some waving Confderate flags. To me, the Confderate flag is the American swastika. More about swastikas later.

Including us, there were maybe 75-100 counter demonstrators off to the side of the main crowd. We chanted anti-racist slogans; the favorite being “Bus Wallace back to Alabama!”. Busing for desegregation was a big issue in PG County at the time. 

When Wallace began to speak I took my sign, left the main contingent of counter-demonstrators, and accompanied by a couple of friends, patrolled the outskirts of the Wallace supporters. As I hoped, the sign really pissed some people off and I did my best to answer their taunts while getting ready to beat a quick retreat if necessary. Picking my teeth up off the pavement of a suburban parking lot was not on my proposed agenda. A few people made threatening gestures, but nobody got violent and the cops didn’t seem to be taking any of it very seriously.

Finally Wallace finished his speech and exited with his entourage.I was standing at the western side of the parking lot with my buddy Charlie when we noticed a bus at the eastern end, maybe 100-150 years away. The large swastikas on the side were hard to miss; so were the people who were blocking the front of the bus. Charlie turned to me and said in total surprise “Fuckin’ Nazis!” Several men emerged from the bus, one with a club in his hand. We shook off our complete shock and began running toward the bus. 

It was the Nazi Hate Bus. I had heard of it, but had never actually seen it. As we came closer, I could see that the bus blockers were scattering, the bus was pulling away and that PG cops were  converging. They began arresting people, for what I had no idea. Charlie and I stopped where the bus had been and looked around. PG County law enforcement had a sizable population of racist thugs. Mentally recording their behavior looked like a good idea. 

A stout guy in a suit quickly planted himself in front of me and demanded that I leave the scene. I looked at him and said,”Who the hell are you?”  He shouted,”You’re under arrest.” I was grabbed from behind and cuffed. Within minutes I was in a PG cop car and heading for the local Hyattsville lockup with 2 teenagers. It turned out they from the Students for McGovern club at a nearby high school. McGovern was the liberal Democrat running that year. They and their pals had organized the sit-in front of the Nazi Hate Bus. I congratulated them and wondered if I would have done the same. Probably not.

There were 8 of us at the lockup, 7 of the McGovern kids and me. The bemused jailer looked at us and asked why we were there. One of the kids proudly said that we had been demonstrating against Nazis. 

The jailor looked at us for a few seconds and then said firmly,” Nazis? I hate Nazis. You boys sit down until someone comes to bail you out. I’m not going to put you in a cell because of a bunch of Nazis.” 

All 7 of the McGovern kids turned out to be Jewish. They were great kids to hang out with. I was charged with disorderly conduct and got bailed out for $100 a couple of hours later.

The next day I called Gary Simpson(no relation), an ACLU attorney we relied on and asked him what I should do. He said he’d look into it. The next day he called and told me that the guy who had “arrested” me was an Alabama State Trooper, a member of Wallace’s security detail and a man with no jurisdiction in Maryland. Then Gary said,” I can’t believe it, but they want to go to court over this. It's outrageous.”

Gary took my case for $100 and as he always did, channeled Clarence Darrow in the courtroom.  I was found not guilty.

While awaiting my court date, I happened to be in my delivery truck in an industrial park about a mile south of Laurel MD. Sirens were wailing from the long line of cop cars and emergency vehicles as they passed me at high speed  heading north on Route 1. I had never seen so many flashing lights. The truck dispatcher came over the radio and ordered me to leave the area ASAP because George Wallace had just been shot. 

The next day there were rumors in the truck lot that all of the black and hippie-looking drivers were kept a safe distance away from the scene by the company. I was one of the hippie-looking drivers, so maybe  that’s why I got that  call. I guess they were afraid of retribution by angry Wallace supporters.

As for George Wallace, he survived his wounds, painfully paralyzed until he passed away in 1998. Wallace never really believed the racist crap  that he spread around in public. It was cold-blooded political calculation and late in his sad life he repented; in my opinion, quite honestly.

Arthur Bremer, his would-be assassin, was released in 2007;  his motive seeming to be no more than bringing publicity on himself. 
Maryland Wallace opponents told a cruel joke about the shooting, saying that if Bremer had been tried by a “Peoples Court”, he would have been found guilty and sentenced to 6 months of target practice.

Wallace supporters had their Confederate flag. We had our Artie Bremer  joke. Racism never paints a pretty picture.


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Indeed, racism never paints a pretty picture. I just don't understand hatred of that magnitude; and admire those who were willing to stand up for what was right, even knowing the possible unpleasant consequences. Thanks for the history lesson, and for sharing your run-in with the law, so to speak.
What an amazing story of how an individual's strand of life is woven into an historical tapestry.
baltimore aureole: I would hardly call the rise of George Wallace an "obscure racist event". His clever manipulation of race was the template has been used to divide and conquer working class America for decades.

As for Syria, somebody should write a good analysis of the Syrian freedom freedom struggle against the Assad dictatorship.It should also include how the US and other imperial powers hope to dominate a post-Assad government. That would be disastrous for the Syrian people. They've lost far too many lives to have their revolution ruined by US delusions of empire.
I certainly am not one of those who has forgotten him. This was a well told story, and the moral drawn from it is precisely the correct one, I think.
but I did laugh at the joke...
This is a great story, so well-written and well-told. I remember George Wallace and my father talking about him, but I was glad to be reminded of this sad history, and your part in it is very interesting. Thanks for a great post.
While a serious topic - you are an absolute riot, Bob! Your life was and is lived to the fullest - making a difference by standing up for what you believe in. You and 7 jews - in jail - protesting nazis - there to support a presidential nominee? Love to take a look-see through your photo also glad you're one of the good guys! phew! Glad he lived after he was shot - call me a bitch! Always informative and interesting - and funny!
Interesting story, and well told, with humor and insight. I know the focus was on your petty crime arrest, but it brought back a lot of memories for me.
I was twelve when we moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1960, three years ahead of Wallace’s infamous stance in the University of Alabama’s doorway. Coming from New Jersey, my siblings and I were astounded by the Colored Only signs on drinking fountains and movie theater entrances in Birmingham, and the obvious and rampant discrimination and downright meanness to black people by whites.
In 1963, ours was one of Birmingham’s first two high schools to be desegregated, my sister and I among the few who dared to cross through those angry, shouting mobs of students and parents to get to the nearly empty classrooms. In spite of everything, though, including the hateful words hurled at us, the rotten eggs thrown at our house, my empathy was for the two African American students who had to be escorted into the school by armed National Guardsmen and state troopers. Children should not have to come of age in such appalling times.
I’d forgotten George Wallace began life as a Democrat. That’s embarrassing. I disagree with your statement that he didn’t believe the racist tenets he embraced. It was a wily political calculation, yes, but I think he also believed them, like so many others in the South in those days. At least until it no longer suited his political agenda, and his desired image of himself. What can you say about a person who vehemently shouts “Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever” only a few short years before shaking the hands of the very people he didn’t want to allow to be educated in integrated classrooms, kissing their babies in a nauseatingly obvious pander for their votes?
The comment from baltimore aureole is right – we really shouldn’t ignore what is going on in Syria. Nor any of the other atrocious human rights violations happening all over the world. But this essay is an important one. Because the lesson here is this: If we forget our history, we are doomed to repeat it.
Thank you for reminding us.
Bonnie Council: Thanks for your commentary. Those who stood up for racial justice in those difficult times were often under attack. As for George's Wallace's state of mind, whatever was in his heart, his repentance came pretty late. It would have meant a lot more after the Birmingham church bombing or after that terrible day on the Edmund Pettis Bridge.

Wallace did accomplish something important that I had forgotten though. He showed that Dixie-style racism was not just a regional phenomena. It was an American problem: North, South, East and West.
roll tide is what matters :)
Good article. I live in Al and have done some research on Wallace. I disagree on your statement that he didn't believe the racist stuff. While indeed he was a true populist that shifted with the political winds. I believe he was a racist. In one of the biographies I read it talks of his racist rants while on a tiny island in WWII when he was on a bomber crew and could easily die any day. I firmly believe that if you're 10,000 miles away from home and could die any minute you're going to say what's truly on your mind.
Zhukov: I was not aware of his racist rants while he was in the Army Air Force. It does shift my point of view about him.
A great story well told, Bob. You've lived not only an interesting & adventurous life, but one of meaningful commitments and challenges. Respect. [r]
Bob, you are amazing and a national treasure. I love reading you real life accounts of history.
I'd like to thank people for your kind words and your perceptive comments. Those were crazy days, but we still live with their consequences today.