Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Harold Jackson, Sunday, wrote a moving piece regarding civil rights icon Chris McNair who at the age of 85 started serving a five year sentence in federal prison in June.
McNair was convicted of corruption charges in 2006 relating to gifts he accepted as a commissioner of Jefferson County, Ala. which includes the city of Birmingham. He had been out of office five years when the conviction was obtained.
McNair’s daughter Denise, age 11, was among those killed during the Sept. 15, 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham by members of the Ku Klux Klan. He overcame his anguish to become a community leader and an example of Christian forgiveness. He eventually obtained his political post during which he received almost $1 million from construction companies who would eventually win bids on a $3.2 billion sewer project.
While $410,000 of the money was in cash, some of it was for work related to building a memorial room for his daughter and expanding his photography studio.
McNair claims he thought the money was gifts from people who felt bad about what happened to his daughter and that it did not influence the way he voted.
Some will sneer at this. I’m not one of them.
I find it very believable that a popular and politically unsophisticated person can be tapped to waltz into office with eyes wide in wonder by the political bosses who safely hold the real power and get the real graft.
And I find it very believable that such a person would break laws without knowing it, which would mean he would not take the easy steps to cover his tail from an ambitious trophy-seeking federal headhunter that a true hack does instinctively.
Meanwhile the true hacks who get rich and powerful from sucking our blood while laughing at the law — the Barney Franks and Charles Rangels And Timothy Geithners — remain lionized and respected.
And when one does cross a line that can’t be ignored like Jeff Epstein, well, it’s two years of house arrest.
Jackson is calling for a presidential pardon for McNair so the man would not die in jail. I wouldn’t go as far as a pardon but Obama certainly should commute his sentence to time served. He should do the same for Skrepenak too.