My mother taught me long ago not to speak ill of the dead.
Thus, I am cautious in speaking of James J. Kilpatrick, who died today. He was the former editor of the Richmond News Leader, and in that role he was the most powerful and eloquent voice for Massive Resistance in the country. His pen was very sharp, and the power of his witness made sure Virginia stood foursquare against school desegregation.
We in Virginia are still seeking to overcome the residue of that resistance. And that is what is on my heart today.
I honor Kilpatrick for eventually repenting of his racist views, although he never apologized for Massive Resistance. Of course, we all make mistakes. Some affect others, sometimes even many others. And we do our best to make amends, when we can. I leave Kilpatrick’s soul to the grace of God.
But I note that often when people insist on ideological purity–claiming the authority of God or the constitution or some other higher authority for themselves, and ignorance for their opponents–that real people suffer.
For example, in the health care debate, politicians claim violations of state sovereignty–just as Kilpatrick did long ago with regard to integration–but I do not hear many of them addressing the need of people without adequate health care.
Today, the Commonwealth of Virginia apologizes to the victims of Massive Resistance. Will we someday be apologizing to those who lost family members due to the lack of adequate health care?