Alabama: Real Reconstruction

Weeks of energetic politicking behind him, Lucius Amerson sat in a Tuskegee office on election day fidgeting over the latest returns. At 8:15 p.m., a young campaign worker hung up the phone and exultantly pounded a fist on the table. "You won!" the youth cried. "You won!" Amerson leaned back and laughed with relief. By a 387-vote margin, the stocky ex-postal clerk had be come the first Alabama Negro to win a Democratic nomination for sheriff since the misty days of Reconstruction.

Amerson, 32, a onetime Army paratrooper and father of two, was...