Each week we’ll take a step back into the history of Great Bend through the eyes of reporters past. We’ll reacquaint you with what went into creating the Great Bend of today, and do our best to update you on what “the rest of the story” turned out to be.
On Sunday, March 7,1965, the front page of the Great Bend Tribune was covered in photographs of local Girl Scouts observing the birthday of Girl Scouting (officially the date would be March 12).
“In this community, we are fortunate that we can count on volunteers totaling 150 adults who make Scouting available to our daughters.” The pictures on the page were representative of the activities of 800 girls in 46 Troops in the community according Doris E. Wilson, Tribune feature writer.
March for freedom
Nearly 1,000 miles away, history was about to be made in Alabama. The morning of March 8, readers learned, “State Troopers halt freedom march in south.”
“State troopers and deputies on horseback, under orders from Gov. George Wallace to stop “freedom” march to the state capital, Sunday tear-gassed 600 Negroes and set them reeling and bleeding under the lashes of clubs, bull whips and ropes.”
An FBI agent photographing the melee had his camera smashed.
“All of the town’s doctors -- white and Negro--were called to Good Samaritan Hospital. One white physician said the place looked as though there had been a “moderate disaster.”
Two weeks later, Martin Luther King Jr. and supporters began a week-long march to the state capital, Montgomery. On March 25, he and 25,000 marchers arrived, and a delegation attempted to deliver a petition to Wallace asking for the right to vote. They were rebuffed, but in August, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
It would be seven years later, while campaigning to become the next U.S. President, Wallace was shot and paralyzed, ending his campaign prematurely. After recovering, he showed poorly in his next attempts.
According to History.com, “During the 1980s, Wallace’s politics shifted dramatically, especially in regard to race. He contacted civil rights leaders he had so forcibly opposed in the past and asked their forgiveness. In time, he gained the political support of Alabama’s growing African American electorate and in 1983 was elected Alabama governor for the last time with their overwhelming support. During the next four years, the man who had promised segregation forever made more African American political appointments than any other figure in Alabama history.”
This week, a campaign on Change.org is gaining support to change the name of the bridge where protesters were beaten back. Edmund Pettus’, who in addition to serving in Congress was also a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, name still marks the bridge. Many have no appreciation for that symbolism. In recent years, a Florida high school was renamed after a similar campaign because the school was named after another infamous racist.
And while this was going on, the first American troops landed on the shores of Da Nang in South Vietnam. For a decade, the U.S. had been involved, first supplying aid and training, and later with bombing support. Great Bend readers learned about the action in Leathernecks in Viet Nam, a UPI wire story.
The troops found no resistance. Cpl Garry Parsons, the Marine squad leader that led the charge onto “Red Beach Two,” was glad to get off the ship. The squad included two brothers, Cpl. Gary L. Reinbeck, 20, and his brother, Pfc. Larry D. Reinbeck, 18, who found each other on the beach after expecting to meet enemy troops.
“But what did we see?,” Gary asked. “Women!” he added, referring to Vietnamese girls who formed a welcoming party, according to the story.
According to the Kansas Historical Society, 627 men from Kansas died during the Vietnam War.