Wallace’s shooter to get out of prison
After 35 quiet years behind bars, Bremer poised to be released
By Ben Nuckols
Associated Press Writer
BALTIMORE — Arthur Bremer was a 21-year-old former janitor and busboy when he shot Alabama Gov. George Wallace five times during a presidential campaign stop in 1972 in Maryland.
Now 57, Bremer is preparing for life outside prison. He’s scheduled to be released in mid-December and could get out even sooner.
Bremer has never publicly expressed remorse for the shooting. He has not granted a single interview during his 35 years behind bars. He’s never gotten into trouble, either.
“He was a model inmate,” said Ruth Ogle, a program manager for the Maryland Parole Commission. “He never had an infraction the entire time he was incarcerated.”
The commission denied parole for Bremer in 1996, on the grounds that releasing him would diminish the seriousness of his crime. He could have asked for a reconsideration of that decision, but he never did.
However, Bremer has shaved nearly two decades off his 53-year sentence with good behavior and by working jobs in prison.
Bremer currently works as a clerk at the medium-security Maryland Correctional Institute-Hagerstown, where he’s lived since 1979.
His release is scheduled for Dec. 16, but that’s likely to change as he continues to accumulate credits for work and good behavior, said Rae Sheeley, a case management specialist at the prison.
The attack on Wallace left the former segregationist with paralyzed legs and forced him to abandon his populist bid for the presidency. Despite declining health, he was elected to two more terms as Alabama’s governor. He died in 1998.
George Wallace Jr. told the Press-Register of Mobile that he got word of Bremer’s impending release about two weeks ago.
“I’ve forgiven Arthur Bremer and my family has, so I think God’s law has been adhered to, and we’re comfortable with that,” Wallace told the newspaper. “But having said that, I don’t believe that given the suffering my father endured all those years from the gunshots and the constant paralysis — I don’t think Arthur Bremer’s incarceration comes close to that type of suffering.”
The younger Wallace told the paper that the shooting had a “purifying” effect on his father, who became more religious and sought forgiveness from blacks for his previous support for segregation. However, the shooting shortened Wallace’s life, his son said.
Reached by phone Thursday morning, George Wallace Jr. declined to comment further.
“I don’t have any more to say about it,” he said. “It’s just too painful.”
Wallace was seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge President Nixon when he was wounded May 15, 1972, outside a shopping center in Laurel. Three bystanders were also shot but weren’t seriously hurt.
Jim Collins, now a spokesman for the city of Laurel, was delivering auto parts that day to a store in the shopping center. Collins drove away before the shooting, but heard about it on the radio and turned around. Informed Thursday that Bremer was to be released, Collins was shocked.
“This is a man who attempted to assassinate, to murder somebody — not only one, but who shot other people as well,” he said. “It amazes me that a person like that could get out of prison.”
Bremer’s trial lasted just one week. His attorney argued Bremer was insane, and jurors heard testimony from experts about Bremer’s mental state. The jury deliberated for 95 minutes before coming back with guilty verdicts on all counts.
Bremer spoke only briefly. Referring to a prosecutor who said he wanted society to be protected from people like the defendant, Bremer said: “Looking back on my life ... I would have liked it if society had protected me from myself.”
Bremer’s diary indicated that he had stalked Nixon before turning his sights on Wallace, and that he was seeking notoriety when he planned to assassinate a political leader.
Yet Bremer’s silence since his conviction has diminished his infamy.
“I shy away from publicity,” he said during his parole hearing, according to a transcript. “There’s nothing I could say, and if I did say something, it could be interpreted the worst way possible against me.”
Bremer’s plans for life outside prison were unclear. Maj. Priscilla Doggett, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Division of Correction, said inmates are required to indicate where they plan to live after their release. Any money they’ve made from prison jobs is paid in a check, and they’re given at least $50 in cash.
Bremer’s parents are deceased. His mother, Sylvia, who died in February at age 92, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 1982 that two of her sons had changed their last names because they were tired of being asked about Arthur. Calls to Bremer’s brother, Roger, went unanswered.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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