Historic night: Democrats unite around Obama

It was a scripted scenario, the outcome never in doubt. But when history arrived on the floor of the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, it came with the full force of emotion.

After an especially long primary season, after private wrangling and public battle, the Democratic Party became the first major party to select an African-American nominee for president in the nation's history.

With a roar of approval and a sparkle of flashing cameras, the convention's delegates nominated by acclamation Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who just four years ago electrified the Democratic convention with a speech where he first called for "a politics of hope." That message carried him in this election season to the top of his party's ticket.

"I never thought I'd live this long to see this," said Albert Lewis, a Hawaii delegate, where Obama grew up. "I'm very proud to be an American today."

Obama's nomination was the climax of a campaign that intertwined two groups that have spent much of the past 50 years struggling for their place at the table of American politics: blacks and women. And it came at the hands of the woman who had tried so hard to wrest it from him. When the roll call came to New York, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton joined her state's delegation on the floor and asked the convention to stop the roll call and nominate Obama.

"In the spirit of unity, with the goal of victory," Clinton said, "let's declare together in one voice, right here right now, that Barack Obama is our candidate."

George Bixon, a retired electrician and the only black delegate among 57 from Iowa, said tears streamed down his cheeks as Obama was nominated.

"It was a moment I thought would never happen in my lifetime," Bixon said. "He was nominated not as a black man but as a man who is qualified to do the job, and that made me proud."

He immediately called his wife back home who waited by the phone with their daughter and two grandchildren.

"We made history and I was part of it," he said he told them. "I'm proud of my country. I'm 63. I was refused buying a candy bar when I was 7 years old. I have been refused trying to purchase a home in an all-white neighborhood. This is nothing short of a miracle,"

"I can hardly describe how I feel, I am so excited," said Kathy Sykes, a delegate from Mississippi, whose delegation in 1964 challenged the party to seat black delegates.

"When I think about (civil rights activist) Medgar Evers, who lost his life registering people to vote — we have come a long way in this country, and we need a man like Barack Obama to lead us into the future."

'One of the greatest things'

Although it had been expected for months, the impact of Obama's nomination rippled out from the Denver convention hall.

Charles Evers, the brother of slain civil rights leader Evers and a Republican supporter of Barack Obama, was listening to the nomination coverage on television Wednesday night before hosting his radio show, Let's Talk, on WMPR-FM in Jackson, Miss.

The nomination is "one of the greatest things that ever happened in my 86 years," Evers said. "I know Medgar, Martin (Luther King) and others never dreamed they would see this day. Forty-five years ago we couldn't do this. Medgar was killed 45 years ago trying to get the right to be heard, period."

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