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Originally published November 9, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 9, 2007 at 3:16 PM

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George Wallace's shooter out of prison after 35 years

The man who shot and paralyzed Alabama Gov. George Wallace during a 1972 presidential campaign stop in Maryland was released from prison...

The Associated Press

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — The man who shot and paralyzed Alabama Gov. George Wallace during a 1972 presidential campaign stop in Maryland was released from prison Friday after serving 35 years of his sentence.

Arthur H. Bremer, 57, left the prison before sunrise, said Mark A. Vernarelli, a state prison system spokesman.

Prison officials declined to comment on Bremer's destination or plans.

"The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services believes the public's interest, safety and security is best served by allowing Arthur Bremer to become acclimated to today's world at his own pace and with as much anonymity as possible," an agency statement read.

Wallace, a fiery segregationist during the 1960s, was wounded on May 15, 1972, during a campaign stop in Laurel, Md. He eventually abandoned his bid for the Democratic nomination, spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair and died in 1998.

Bremer, a former Milwaukee busboy and janitor, was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 53 years. He had been held at the medium-security Maryland Correctional Institution near Hagerstown, about 70 miles from Baltimore, since 1979.

He earned his mandatory release through good behavior and by working in prison. Bremer will remain under the supervision of the Division of Parole and Probation until his sentence ends in 2025.

Bremer's diary, parts of which were found in a landfill in 1980, made it clear he was motivated to attempt to kill Wallace by a desire for attention, not a political agenda. He had also stalked President Nixon.

David R. Blumberg, the state Parole Commission chairman, said Friday that Bremer was no longer interested in fame.

"He's kept a decidedly low profile. He's turned down all requests for notoriety and interviews, including some that had money attached to them," he said.

Released inmates are given street clothes to wear and at least $50, though they may have more if they held a job in prison. Bremer was an educational aide and was eligible to earn up to $1 a day.

While Vernarelli declined to say where in the state Bremer planned to live, he said it would not be in Washington County, where the prison is located. Local officials have complained to the state about former inmates staying in the community after their release.

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Bremer's parents died while he was in prison. One of his brothers, Roger Bremer of Milwaukee, told The (Baltimore) Sun in August that Secret Service agents contacted him about the possibility of his brother living with him. Bremer said he was wary of what his brother might be like after 35 years in prison and declined to take him in.

Under the conditions of his release, Bremer must stay away from elected officials and candidates. He would have to undergo a mental health evaluation and treatment if the state considers it necessary, and he can't leave Maryland without written permission from the state Parole Commission.

The conditions also require Bremer to submit to electronic monitoring, but Vernarelli said he did not know if such monitoring was in place.

Wallace family members said Bremer hasn't been punished enough.

"My father forgave him and my family has forgiven him. That's consistent with God's law," George Wallace Jr. said in Montgomery, Ala. "Then there is man's law. I doubt the punishment has fit the crime."

Peggy Wallace Kennedy, the governor's daughter, she thought Bremer was "getting out 17 ½ years too early."

The Alabama governor made his famous "stand in the schoolhouse door" in 1963, decrying the enrollment of two black students at the all-white University of Alabama in a standoff against the Justice Department and the National Guard.

By 1972, he had tempered his racist rhetoric and adopted a more subtle approach, denouncing federal courts over the forced busing of children to integrate schools and pledging to restore "law and order," a phrase sometimes regarded as a coded appeal to white racists.

Wallace recanted his segregationist stand later in his career and won his final term with the help of black votes.

Bremer was partly the inspiration for the deranged Travis Bickle character in the 1976 film "Taxi Driver." The movie, in turn, fascinated John Hinckley, who tried to kill President Ronald Reagan in a twisted attempt to impress the film's co-star, Jodie Foster.

— — —

Associated Press writer Phillip Rawls in Montgomery, Ala., and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala., contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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