Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Murdered

Tragedy struck at the Arkansas Democratic Party headquarters in Little Rock this afternoon when a man shot and killed Bill Gwatney, the state Democratic Party chairman.

The man, who has been identified by some news outlets as Tim Johnson, came into the office wanting to speak with Gwatney. When a secretary told Johnson that Gwatney was unavailable he went past her into Gwatney's office and proceeded to shoot him. Gwatney would die of his injuries while in the hospital.

Johnson fled the scene where he was chased by police for approximately 30 miles. At the end of the chase, gunfire was exchanged and Johnson was shot. He would later die in hospital.

Needless to say, the motive behind the killing is likely not to ever be known.

The obvious question in my mind is whether Gwatnee knew Johnson?

I ask the question because the first thing that crossed my mind when I heard that Gwatnee had been shot was Allard Lowenstein.

Al Lowenstein was a former U.S. Congressman from New York who dedicated his life to a variety of liberal causes. He was working on Ted Kennedy's bid to wrest the Democratic nomination from Jimmy Carter when on March 14, 1980 he was shot and killed by Dennis Sweeney. In the 1960s, Lowenstein served as the dean of Stern Hall, a men's dormitory at Stanford University. It was there he met and befriended Sweeney and became something of a mentor to him. Sweeney would become active in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movement. However, Sweeney would also become afflicted with mental illness and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia believing that Lowenstein was plotting against him.

Of course, this could be apples and oranges. But when I heard about this shooting, Al Lowenstein was the first person to come to my mind.

Whatever the case, this whole thing is truly awful.

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