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Editorial: Former Alabama Gov. Patterson leaves complicated legacy stained by early segregationist views

Former governor shares memories of WWII battle

Former Alabama Gov. John Patterson presents a program with his biographer at the Sylacauga library in 2015. It was titled “Battle of El Guettar: A Turning Point in the Tunisian Campaign.”

When the Freedom Riders were being attacked in Anniston 60 years ago, one man could have stopped the violence with a stand of conscience and courage.

Former Alabama Gov. John Patterson instead stood silently and defiantly as crowds attacked the buses passing through the state. The Freedom Riders — civil rights activists testing a Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation in interstate travel — were beaten severely by White mobs. They had no local police protection.

John Patterson

Alabama Gov. John Patterson, photographed in 1961, had a meteoric career at the summit of Alabama politics, becoming attorney general at 33 and governor at 37. 

WWII vets talk

John Patterson, left, talks with fellow World War II veteran Howard Ellington in 2015 at the B.B. Comer Library in Sylacauga. 

Participated in battle

Former Gov. John Patterson participated in the Battle of El Guettar as a young artillery officer. 

James Bennett is Executive Editor. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or