WASHINGTON -- White House rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton will be in Selma, Ala., on Sunday to mark the anniversary of a bloody civil rights struggle -- with a surprise addition, former President Bill Clinton, nicknamed the first black president.
This will mark Bill Clinton's first public appearance to bolster his wife's 2008 bid and comes as she and Obama are competing for African-American votes. The former president will be inducted into the Voting Rights Hall of Fame -- the game plan floated earlier had the New York senator picking up the honor for him.
Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said the last-minute addition came as the ex-president was "rearranging his schedule to be there" because it was "an event he did not want to miss."
Obama and Hillary Clinton will speak from pulpits of two Selma churches blocks apart Sunday morning. They are participating in ceremonies marking the 42nd anniversary of marches and violent clashes that led to African Americans winning voting rights.
Obama, if elected, would be the first African-American president and has been doing interviews to draw attention to his Sunday appearance. Today, he is on morning shows on ABC, NBC and CBS.
A high point of the annual gathering -- a who's who of the U.S. civil rights community -- is a re-enactment in the afternoon of a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Obama and Hillary Clinton are both scheduled to be part of the march -- and now so is the former president, who has been working in the background for his wife's election.
While president, Bill Clinton attended the march's 35th anniversary on March 5, 2000. The 42nd president has remained extraordinarily popular among blacks, who were his strongest supporters even during his impeachment. He'll be inducted right after the march -- at the foot of the Pettus bridge.