It takes a big man to admit his mistakes. Florida Congressman Jim Davis, the democratic nominee for governor of Florida did so last week. In 1989, then State Senator Jim Davis refused to vote for compensating two black death row inmates wrongfully convicted of murder. Convicted by an all-white-jury of crimes someone else later confessed to, the case had all the hallmarks of a Hollywood film.
Subsequently freed and pardoned by former governor Rueben Askew, Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee’s case almost became the political undoing of Congressman Davis. His opponent used the Davis vote like a sledgehammer in the black community piling up endorsements and large pluralities of black votes.
Without making peace with the black community and its leadership, Jim Davis realized that he would be wasting his time and effort in a race he would surely lose. An epiphany struck and he found the healing power of apology. He held a press conference with the two former death row inmates and apologized to both men. He even sounded like he meant it.
He followed that up the next day by choosing an African American, former State Senator Daryl Jones, to be his running mate for Lieutenant Governor.
That is the way to apologize. Martin O’Malley apparently understood that as well when he chose Delegate Anthony Brown to be his running mate this year in Maryland.
It is a lesson that former Navy Secretary Jim Webb should take to heart because of his tone deaf comments regarding Affirmative Action and his ineffectual efforts in Virginia’s black community. Having Barack Obama campaign for him is a start, but it is still and incomplete gesture.