Selma march at 50: 'You represented all of us who couldn't go'

This story appears in the Selma march at 50 feature series. View the full series.

by Paul Murray

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Editor's note: Every day this week, we are publishing reflections of Bloody Sunday, its aftermath and the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., to commemorate the march's 50th anniversary. Find more Selma reflections.

Kathy Scannell was a 23-year-old office worker for the Delaware Development Department when she flew to Alabama with a delegation from the Wilmington Catholic Interracial Council. They arrived for the last day of the Selma-to-Montgomery march.

Scannell's parents were politically connected liberal Democrats and members of Christ Our King Parish in Wilmington. Her father, Joseph Scannell, was adjutant general of the Delaware National Guard. Before she left, her father handed her a letter addressed to the adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard. She paraphrases its contents: "My daughter is visiting in Alabama and I hope you would extend to her the same courtesies that I would extend to your daughter should she be visiting Delaware."

Kathy laughs, "That was my get-out-of-jail-free card." Fortunately, she never had to use it.

The six-person Wilmington group, four whites and two blacks, drove into Montgomery's African-American community and waited for the march to pass. The marchers called out as they trooped by, "Come on. Come join us." The Wilmington contingent fell in at the back of the procession. Scannell remembers seeing soldiers in full combat gear stationed along the route -- men commanded by her father's Alabama counterpart.

When she returned to Wilmington, Scannell was greeted by her older sister, who had stayed home caring for her young children. She said, "You were the lucky one. You represented all of us who couldn't go."

A version of this story appeared in the Feb 27-March 12, 2015 print issue under the headline: Kathy Scannell: adjutant's daughter.

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