A year ago this week, Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy made national headlines and history by apologizing for some of the department's actions during the civil rights struggle 50 years ago. On Friday, he visited the White House with the man who received that apology, Georgia State Representative and civil rights leader John Lewis.
Last year, Murphy formally apologized to Lewis for the police department's actions in 1961, when officers failed to protect Freedom Riders, including Lewis, from an angry mob who met them at the Greyhound Bus Station. The Freedom Riders were riding through the south to protest segregation on public buses.
Alabama State Representative Alvin Holmes said the apology and Murphy's trip to the Washington with Lewis are a mark or progress in the fight for equality.
"I appreciate it as one who was on the Greyhound Bus Station that got beaten up along with Congressman Lewis and many of the other freedom riders," said Holmes.
Reverend Robert Graetz is another Montgomery resident who fought for civil rights. He pastored a Lutheran church in the 1950s and was active in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He says Murphy's actions mark an attitude shift, one he hopes will help heal old wounds.
"You know, it's a symbolic gesture and sometimes we put those things down as meaningless because they don't have any kind of direct impact, but we have to start by changing our patterns of thought," Graetz said.
Lewis and Murphy attended the Saint Patrick's Day Celebration in Washington, which was also attended by President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and the Prime Minister of Ireland.