Newly-Discovered Footage of George Wallace Shooting

It was a year ago this week that our friend and longtime Laurel resident, John Floyd, passed away. We’re still curating his many photos and artifacts as we prepare a special tribute page for him here on our website, and one of the items we were most surprised to find among his files is this 8mm film.

As a 14-year-old in May 1972, John predictably took a home movie camera to record Governor George Wallace’s presidential campaign appearance at Laurel Shopping Center, and captured a two-minute overview of the speech, the shooting, and aftermath of the assassination attempt. We digitized the footage and shared it initially on our Facebook page.

Recorded on May 15, 1972 by John when he was 14 years old, it captures the presidential campaign appearance of Alabama governor George Wallace at Laurel Shopping Center. Moments after leaving the podium, Wallace was shot by Arthur Bremer and left paralyzed for life. The footage is just over two minutes in length. Included are glimpses of Grand Ole Opry star Billy Grammer and his band, Wallace’s introduction, moments from his speech, the shooting, aftermath, and the Laurel Rescue Squad response. The silent footage, which John himself admitted he’d long ago misplaced, can now be seen publicly for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Prince George’s County’s CTV News ran a piece on our discovery, interviewing Richard Friend for the story. The segment appears at the 8:19 mark:

Voices of Laurel

We are thrilled with the reaction to our newspaper, Voices of Laurel. We’re already at work on the Spring issue! Our intention has always been to produce a free digital newspaper to reach as many people as possible. Frankly, we didn’t expect that printing would even be an option, (at least not anytime soon) so you can imagine how excited we are to have partnered with Laurel-based newspaper printer, Comprint—a terrific organization that has also printed Laurel High School’s student newspaper. They enthusiastically agree with our philosophy of promoting local businesses, and as we are a nonprofit organization, they graciously agreed to print a limited number of copies at a reduced cost. At this early stage, we haven’t received any grants or advertising money, so this printing cost was paid out of our own pockets.

This weekend, we will begin distributing quantities of this inaugural issue to small, locally-owned businesses—and we’ll let you know where you can pick up a free copy. It’s our hope that this will help to further drive customers to support Laurel’s merchants during this tough time.

After the bulk of the newspapers have been distributed locally, we may have a few copies available to mail out to those of you requesting them who no longer live near Laurel. For that, we’ll ask for a small tax-deductible contribution to cover mailing costs and to help support our mission of bringing history to you. However, complete digital issues (PDF format) will always be available on our website, free to download.

For those who are new to our work, we are literally a three-man shop: Richard Friend, Kevin Leonard, and Pete Lewnes do everything—there’s no staff or anyone else. Please also note that we do this in addition to our day jobs, so we greatly appreciate your patience and support. The Laurel History Boys don’t charge for anything, except the books that we produce (such as last year’s Laurel at 150.) We rely on crowdfunding and sponsorship ads to cover printing expenses, and we’re actively seeking any businesses or organizations that would be interested in sponsoring tax-deductible ads or grants to help fund the printing of future issues of Voices of Laurel. If you have any connections or ideas, please contact us at laurelhistoryboys@gmail.com.

On a related note, those businesses and organizations that kindly supported our Laurel at 150 book will each be receiving free ad space throughout this year’s quarterly issues of Voices of Laurel as an added thank you.

A special note to the small business owners of Laurel: people have already started asking for Voices of Laurel, and we’re looking forward to telling them to visit YOUR restaurant, bakery, barber shop, etc. to pick up their free copy while supporting local small businesses! We’ve got a limited quantity, so please contact us soon if you’d like a few copies to make available for free to your customers.

Many thanks again for your kind words about our work. It’s very gratifying to know that so many in the community support what we do!

Diner Appreciation Day

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Join us Saturday morning, January 19th from 9:00–12:00 PM at the Tastee Diner, as we hope to draw an an extra-large breakfast crowd of Save the Diner supporters! It will be the last weekend before the pivotal Board of Appeals meeting that will decide whether or not Pure Hana Synergy can purchase the site and convert it to a medical marijuana dispensary. That hearing is tentatively set for Thursday, January 24th at 7 PM at the Laurel Municipal Center.

The hearing, originally scheduled for December 20th, was delayed by over a month at Pure Hana’s request after the Planning Commission unanimously voted to deny their application at the December 11th meeting.

While it’s expected that the Board of Appeals committee will uphold the ruling, Tastee Diner owner Gene Wilkes has made it clear that he still intends to sell the property. After nearly 43 years of operating the Laurel location, he’s earned the right to retire.

When Mr. Wilkes took over the diner in 1976, he technically saved it, himself. Had it not become part of his Tastee Diner chain when it did, there’s a very good chance that it wouldn’t have survived into the next decade. Much like Outrider’s Diner just up the street in North Laurel, it would have disappeared from the landscape before generations of Laurelites could enjoy its affordable fare and authentic 1950s ambiance.

As a way of saying thank you to Mr. Wilkes—and showing the City of Laurel that the diner remains a relevant and vital part of this town—we’re asking you to come out to the diner in force Saturday morning, January 19th.

Whether it’s just for a cup of coffee or a full-blown breakfast, please come support the diner and its hardworking staff. With over 2,300 petition signatures, we’ve already shown the City leaders that people want to save the diner. Now let’s show them in person, en masse.

With the Pure Hana deal out of the picture, this is the opportunity for the City of Laurel’s Community Redevelopment Authority to step in and make an offer for the property—or, at the very least, to negotiate a purchase of the diner itself—in order to relocate it to property that the City owns at 312 Main Street.

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Adding the diner to the Historic District would bring long-term benefits the likes of which the CRA will probably never see again. Once it receives historic designation, the diner would qualify for state and county preservation grants, among other funding. The Maryland Main Street Program, which Laurel is now a part of, would provide further aide in this transition.

But most importantly, the City should, by now, see the economic potential that this diner would bring to Main Street. If they don’t, a large turnout with media coverage will make the picture even clearer.

Diner Appreciation Day
Saturday, January 19, 2019
9 AM – 12 PM
Tastee Diner Laurel
118 Washington Blvd.

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