by John Avlon
The Daily Beast
Once upon a time, a restaurant owner refused to serve people who were different. He said he did so in the name of freedom, not discrimination.
The time was 1964, the place was Georgia, and the man was Lester Maddox. He was the owner of The Pickrick restaurant and one July day he chased out three black patrons, waving a pistol. This made him something of a local celebrity and a national symbol of resistance to the big government imposition of civil rights. But he always insisted that he was not motivated by racism but simply defending the rights of private property and his personal beliefs.
“This property belongs to me—and I’ll throw out a white one, a black one, a red-headed one or a bald headed one. It doesn’t make any difference to me.”
Maddox became a hero to conservative populists—most of whom were Democrats at that time in the South, because of a hangover from the Civil War a century before—and he rode the wave of resistance to desegregation all the way to the Governor’s mansion two years later.
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