In his early sixties satirical song "National Brotherhood Week," Tom Lehrer evoked the image of "Lena Horne and Sheriff Clark/Dancing cheek to cheek."
The dark humor of this line was the idea of Lena Horne, the beautiful, elegant, talented African-American performer who was very active in the Civil Rights movement, dancing cheek to cheek with Selma, Alabama Sheriff Jim Clark, who was her antithesis-- a violent, ignorant, unrepentant segregationist.
Jim Clark died on June 4, 2007 at the age of 84.
As Sheriff of Dallas County, Alabama, which included the town of Selma, Clark did everything he could to keep African-Americans from registering to vote. He harassed civil rights workers. In one incident that was widely televised, he punched a civil rights leader, C.T. Vivian, so hard the he broke his own hand.
His height of notoriety, though, came on March 7, 1965. He and Alabama State Troopers attacked a group of peaceful protesters marching out of Selma at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This group included a young African-American activist, John Lewis, who had his skull fractured that day. He is now a US Congressman.
A week later, Dr. Martin Luther King was able to lead a similar march, which proceeded without incident.
The savage attacks, which came to be known as Bloody Sunday, were televised world-wide, and horrified the US public and the world. Ironically, it is largely credited with giving political mommentum for passage of the Voting Rights Act, which President Lyndon Johnson signed on August 6, 1965.
Clark became an ironic icon of the Civil Rights movement-- his dumbass, violent, unrepentant white trash image was the personification of those who opposed civil rights-- it didn't give a good image to them. Ironically, then, he probably hastened, rather than hindered the implementation of civil rights in the United States.
It was also ironic that Clark, who generated so much violence and hatred, met his end peacefully in a nursing home this week.