Journalists did not, unfortunately, have the insight of biographers. The headlines would read, "Senator Williams attends funeral of mentor's son." Perhaps some reporter, who had done his homework, would add the prefix, "In gesture of forgiveness." Few would remember that August day back in 1982 as anything but one on which a misfortune proved to have a silver lining for the young George Williams: Senator Jackson standing by his hospital bed saying, "Where are you going to college in the fall, son?"
"Stanford, sir." And with the sudden intuition that at this moment humility would be rewarded. "Well... Maybe. I'm on the wait list."
The older man's eyes lit up. "Wait list? Let me make a call, son. I think I might just be able to do something about that. And about this... accident. Believe me, son, my boy and his friends are going to be in a world of trouble as it is. Trevor's appointment to West Point has already been withdrawn. There'll be justice. But I think you understand... That this was stupid boys in a car with beer. They weren't singling you out," the words said with deliberate slowness, "in any way." A pause. "Were they son?"
"No, sir. I don't guess they were."
Had they? Hadn't they? Had he?
Though the images of that day -- the car in the afternoon sun, the sounds of the big block engine revving, the shouts of, "We're gonna get you this time, Williams!" -- could be readily summoned to his mind even now, he could not say why he had darted right instead of left. Had he, at that instant, understood the full implications of a white senator's son running down a black teenager three months before an election? Surely not.
And yet the one thing he was clear about, as he saw again the sun glinting off black enamel paint and chrome in that instant before being hit, was that he'd dodged the wrong way intentionally -- and that as he'd done so and heard the startled screams from the car, going too fast to stop, he'd sensed that he had won.
4 hours ago