This Day in History: 1965-04-20

An all-white jury acquits Lester Maddox of all charges after the white man threatened three young Black seminary students at gunpoint for attempting to enter his racially-segregated Atlanta restaurant. The jury deliberated for only 47 minutes before returning its not guilty verdict, despite clear evidence of his guilt and the fact that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 expressly prohibited racial segregation of restaurants and other public accommodations. After his acquittal for threatening these Black men, Mr. Maddox capitalized on his increased notoriety and broad white support for his segregationist positions by mounting a campaign for Governor of Georgia the following year. With the KKK’s endorsement, he won. During his term in office, Mr. Maddox promoted a racist, segregationist agenda, vigorously opposed integrating Georgia public schools, and refused to permit Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to lie in state after his April 1968 assassination. Learn more.