Remembering the man who shot George Wallace

Word that Arthur H. Bremer likely will be freed from a Maryland prison in a few months brought a rush of memory to me Thursday – as one of the handful of reporters who saw him on the fateful day in May 1972 after he shot Democratic presidential candidate George C. Wallace on the Laurel Shopping Center parking lot.

I was working in the Baltimore Sun newsroom amid the commotion wrought by one of the rare events big enough to make Maryland the center of the media universe, but not involved in the immediate coverage of the story. When my shift ended in late evening, I found my way into the game wearing another hat – as a paid-by-the-story local stringer for the British news agency Reuters.

With Wallace, the segregationist Alabama governor, hospitalized in critical condition, federal authorities were coy about where Bremer was being held and when and where he would be hauled before a U.S. magistrate for an initial court appearance. The Sun’s federal court reporter had been assured it would be the next morning, perhaps in Hyattsville.

I joined a small media stakeout at the old federal courthouse, in Baltimore’s then-main post office on Calvert Street, where the hapless Bremer – bloodied and bruised from his pummeling in the crowd after shooting Wallace – arrived amid tight security for an unannounced and brief late-night appearance.

Few events in my 40 years at The Sun could rival the spotlight that Bremer’s crazed act brought to this area. I can remember the day in 1968 that Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon named Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew as his running mate (phones at the city desk, which I was answering, rang off the hook with the question, “Spiro Who?”), and the story’s other bookend in 1973 when Agnew unexpectedly turned up in that same Baltimore courthouse as Bremer to resign the vice presidency and pleaded no contest to tax evasion (and me, sitting back around the fifth row, about to earn a big raise from Reuters).

But Bremer was really my first big-time story, if only through a piece of the action. Wallace awoke from surgery paralyzed for life from a bullet in his spine, but for a day politically triumphant after winning Maryland’s Democratic presidential primary. He died in 1998.

Thirty-five years after the shooting, now recently retired from The Sun, I would love to chat up that unrepentant sad-sack loser Bremer – who has declined interview requests and done his best to avoid any spotlight. Many aspects of his life before the shooting have emerged, adding up to a portrait of a socially and sexually awkward outcast who stalked Nixon before turning his gun on Wallace.

Is he still crazy after all these years? Long denied parole, he remains an enigma.

But with credits for good behavior behind bars, he will soon walk among us again.

-DAVID ETTLIN, Temporary Assistant Business Editor

It’s like Netflix, only it’s books

Do you think the price of books has grown prohibitive? Is $25 or $30 too much for the latest James Patterson or Dan Brown thriller?

BookSwim.com, a Web site now in beta, hopes there are plenty of people who feel that way. The company is looking to take the Netflix model of movie rentals and apply it to the world of books. Subscribers can rent books, keep them as long as they want, and return them as often as their plan allows.

Like Netflix, users line books up in queue for shipping depending on the plan. Also like Netflix, there is no charge to ship or return the books. The site says it has more than 150,000 titles in its library.

Plans start at $19.99 per month for the company’s three-at-a-time option. As an example of what they have, BookSwim’s top rentals are:

1. A Thousand Splendid Suns
2. Nineteen Minutes: A novel
3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
4. Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl’s Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me?
5. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union: A Novel

Bookswim might just be on to something. The site was pretty much shut down Wednesday afternoon due largely to high traffic in the wake of blog and media attention like a mention on Lifehacker.com and a write-up at C/net’s Webware site.

—BEN MOOK, Assistant Business Editor

The Bow Tie Club for Law

Awhile back, the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog created the Bow Tie Club, an exclusive society made up of top lawyers, judges, etc. who have made the bow tie their own.

Following in Law Blog maestro Peter Lattman’s footsteps, let’s get some nominations in the comments section for a Maryland chapter of the Bow Tie Club.

There are a few obvious ones already, namely everyone’s favorite sartorially gifted state court chief judge, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell (pictured at right with Fred Godman of The Daily Record). The chief judge even presented his Supreme Court counterpart, Chief Justice John Roberts, with a Maryland flag bow tie when Roberts spoke at the Maryland Judicial Conference last year. (Roberts accepted the gift and told Bell he’d wear it “on an appropriate occasion.” No word on whether that occasion ever presented itself.)

Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Larry Daniels should also be inducted into the club. Real estate attorney Ronald P. Fish, who passed away in June, would have made a wonderful charter member; when my colleague Brendan Kearney interviewed his friends and associates for an obituary (subscriber-only link), they told him that Fish was famous for his extensive bow tie collection, even possessing one in the shape of a fish.

The Daily Record’s own “Raising the Bar” columnist Paul Mark Sandler wrote (subscriber-only link) a few months ago that “[m]any lawyers avoid bow ties based on the belief that juries will not trust someone wearing a bow tie, but those who argue appellate cases or non-jury trials have no hesitation to wear them.” Is this true? Do any trial lawyers out there flout the conventional wisdom and wear that professorial accessory with pride before a jury?

Who else should be a part of our Maryland chapter?

-CARYN TAMBER, Daily Record Legal Affairs Reporter