Former Alabama Gov. John Patterson, who entered politics as a reformer after his father’s assassination but was criticized for failing to protect the Freedom Riders from angry white mobs, has died. He was 99.
He died Friday, his daughter, Barbara Patterson Scholl, confirmed. “He died very peacefully at home. His family and friends were with him,” she said.
Patterson’s involvement with state government spanned a half century, beginning with his election as attorney general at 33 after violence in Phenix City, and later as a judge. In 1955, he appeared briefly as himself in “The Phenix City Story,” a Phil Karlson movie that told the story of his courageous battle against organized crime. The fictionalized account was advertised with a picture of actor Richard Kiley playing Patterson and saying, “I’ll get the gangs that killed my father!”
A segregationist as governor, he drew criticism when Freedom Riders were attacked while in Alabama and Patterson did nothing to protect them, despite direct pleas from Attorney General Robert