MONTGOMERY, Ala. — "Come on back March 7, 8 and 9, because there will be thousands and thousands and thousands here," Mayor Todd Strange told the crowd amassed at Goat Hill, the moniker affixed to the grounds of the state Capitol here.
Strange was speaking to cyclists and their supporters gathered for the Feb. 21 Montgomery Bicycle Club 50th Anniversary Selma to Montgomery Bicycle Ride. He was referring to the visitors set to descend upon his fair state and the capital region to commemorate the half-century mark of the voting rights march led by Martin Luther King Jr. March 7 marks a grimmer anniversary, that of "Bloody Sunday," when now-Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Hosea Williams and marchers were beaten by state troopers and vigilantes on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma as they set out for the capital. Lewis walks the bridge every year on the anniversary, usually bringing along House colleagues and anyone else interested. Sometimes it's been a lonely walk. But this year, organizers are expected more than 100 members of Congress and thousands more regular citizens to make the trip.
Why is it called Goat Hill? According to the Alabama state archives, "Andrew Dexter, one of the founders of the town, had held on to a prime piece of property in long anticipation of the capital's eventual move to Montgomery. Dubbed 'Goat Hill' for its use as pasturage, the site retained that affectionate appellation despite attempts to dignify the spot with names like 'Lafayette Hill' (after the 1825 visit of the Marquis de Lafayette) and 'Capitol Hill' (after the 1847 construction of the Capitol)." One can only imagine the possibilities if the nickname was invoked at different times in history. Imagine the reaction to Gov. George Wallace's "Segregation today, segregation forever" speech if he had subbed in "Goat Hill" for "cradle of the Confederacy" as he delivered his inaugural address on Jan. 14, 1963:
"Today I have stood, where once Jefferson Davis stood, and took an oath to our people. It is very appropriate that from this Goat Hill, this very Heart of the Great Anglo-Saxon Southland, that today we sound the drum for freedom as have our generations of forebears before us done, time and again through history."
Goats of the Confederacy, indeed.
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