SELMA, Ala., March 7 (UPI) -- Black Democrats welcomed Alabama's new Republican governor to commemorations of the Selma voting rights march and hailed improved relations.
Thousands of marchers, including Democratic congressional leaders, joined in a ceremonial crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the anniversary of March 7, 1965, when state troopers assaulted 600 peaceful black residents with clubs and tear gas.
"Bloody Sunday," as it became known, help spur passage of the Voting Rights Act that year.
At a unity breakfast, Gov. Robert Bentley was warmly greeted by state Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma, one of the state's top Democrats.
He "has a good heart [and] is concerned about those who have been left out," said Sanders, The Montgomery Advertiser reported.
Sanders noted the appointment of several blacks to high posts in the new administration, in contrast to former Gov. Bob Riley's administration.
To applause from hundreds, Bentley said he named Hugh McCall the first black full-time director of public safety "not because of his color, but because of his outstanding leadership."
Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the third-ranking Democrat in the House, delivered the sermon at Brown Chapel AME Church, Selma's most prominent black house of worship.