Forty-six years ago today…

Hustler publisher Larry Flynt was shot on the town square in tiny Lawrenceville, GA. The date was March 6, 1978. How far have we come since then?

This shocking event was uncharacteristic of the sleepy little Georgia town back then. Today, Lawrenceville (in Gwinnett County) is a bustling, thriving destination for locals, with upscale restaurants, breweries, and art. None of this was so in 1978. So why was this man-  and the circus he brought with him –  being tried in the small county seat in a mostly rural area for distributing pornography?

Georgia, then and now, sits squarely in the Bible Belt. Flynt’s blatantly pornographic magazine, sold in a few select stores tucked neatly inside a brown paper covering behind the counter, would not be tolerated in this area. Citizens and lawmakers were outraged when Flynt, true to form, signed and sold copies himself in a small convenience store in the area. He wanted to be charged with distributing pornography, because courtrooms all throughout the Bible Belt were his stage, his lectern, as he stood on his First Amendment rights with swarming flair and fireworks and media attention.

But why was he shot, and why in Georgia? My fourth book, Blood in the Soil tells the story. In short, while people remembered the shooting just as they remembered the murder of JFK, we were never told why the shooter hit both Flynt and his Lawrenceville attorney, Gene Reeves.

In short, racial hatred was at the root of the crime.

That was 46 years ago, when the KKK marched freely and openly in the streets,when segregation still lived and breathed in corners of dimly lit rooms. Has anything changed? Have the people of this country moved past blind hatred? If we were to ask the late Dr. Martin Luther King, what might he say?

Here is what he said in 1963:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

How far have we come since then?

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