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WARNING: Video contains graphic content

It was a quiet city back then, a place where a stage stood in a nondescript shopping center, a platform from which a controversial presidential candidate would speak.

It was a day when Laurel would become the city where a man with a gun tried to kill George Wallace.


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Wallace, then a Democratic governor from Alabama whose views on race and segregation were becoming more out of place in 1972 America, had just finished his campaign speech on Monday, May 15, 1972, when he stepped toward the crowd and in range of Arthur Herman Bremer.

The 21-year-old, sandy-haired man from Milwaukee, Wisc., had a .38 caliber revolver that could hold five bullets. He fired five times.

And on that day 40 years ago, an infamous chapter of history was written in Laurel.

Campaigning on segregation

Wallace, who was 52 at the time, was an increasingly anachronistic voice in a changing U.S. political landscape when he arrived in a Maryland city that was far different than the Laurel of today.

Karen Yengich was 25 years old and a newly hired reporter for the News Leader, as the Laurel Leader was then called, who had moved from Utah to Maryland with her late husband. It was her first day on the job, and she had landed a prime assignment, covering Wallace's visit.

"Wallace was kind of a holdout in terms of the old segregationist feelings," said Yengich, now 65 and living in Salt Lake City. "There were divisions within the Democratic Party. I don't think everybody in Laurel, Maryland, or anywhere else was still a racist or segregationist, but certainly some people had those feelings, and some didn't and wanted things to change.

"I don't know why he picked Laurel as a campaign stop. Some felt there were stronger feelings for his political beliefs, but it wasn't predominant," she said. "I'd really say George Wallace was a fringe candidate in terms of today's terminology, but he did have a following. There were some people who did have those beliefs. Although, things had started to change the other way."

Wallace had run for president before, falling short in a third-party bid for the White House in 1968, finishing in third place behind Republican victor Richard Nixon and Democratic runner-up Hubert Humphrey. He did garner more than 13 percent of the popular vote, however, and 8.6 percent of the electoral vote, winning five states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

He returned to the Democratic fold for the 1972 race, running for the right to challenge Nixon's bid for re-election. And when the primary election season came to Maryland in May of that year, the race for the nomination, unlike the primaries of today, was far from over. Wallace was gaining momentum, had won resoundingly earlier in the month in Tennessee and North Carolina, and joined Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern as the three top candidates.

"Everybody knew who George Wallace was," Yengich said. "He had a national reputation, even though he was from Alabama."

He had been a judge, a state representative and was now in his second term as a governor. As Alabama's chief executive a decade before, he had sought to stop the desegregation at schools in the state.

In the early 1960s, he had proclaimed: "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

Bremer spotted in the crowd

It was a sunny Monday afternoon. Musician Billy Grammer took to the stage with his band, entertaining the assembled crowd before Wallace spoke in the parking lot at Laurel Shopping Center.

James Collins was a young Vietnam veteran, a 22-year-old driving around Laurel for his job delivering auto parts when he passed by the shopping center.