Michigan’s ‘Water Winter Wonderland’ Tags Are Subtle Tribute To Civil Rights Hero
I recently made it official and turned myself into an official Michigander. Got my new bank account up here, got my new driver's license, and even voted in the Midterm Elections.
But strangely enough, the most exciting thing for me, was changing the tag on my truck - Getting rid of that Kansas license plate, and putting something with a little more character above the tailpipe. But what I didn't expect was the bit of history that came with my tag decision - the Blue and Gold "Water, Winter Wonderland" tag.
A cool, vintage tag is something I've always wanted. They're typically clean and simple, which is how I like my vehicles to look. The blue tag with gold text just happens to look really good on my black pickup.
But then, I got a lesson on not only the origins of the tag, but why the state brought it back.
It was issued for the first time in the 1950s, but only had "Water Wonderland" printed on it. It wasn't until 1965 that the "Winter" part was added. And the 1965 edition of the plate is most coveted, as it's the first time plates in Michigan were made of galvanized steel.
It's long been a collector's item for love of all things Pure Michigan. Residents asked for years that it be brought back, and earlier this year, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson made that happen.
"I am proud to give Michiganders back a longtime favorite license plate." - SoS Jocelyn Benson, Dec. 2, 2021
But why now? What was the key element that pushed it to happen?
"It's not about Michigan versus Michigan State, as a lot of people concluded when we released it," Benson said.
Turns out, it's a tribute to a Detroit woman, who died fighting for Civil Rights.
Viola Liuzzo was fighting across the country for equality for everyone and drove her Oldsmobile 800 miles to Alabama in 1965 to march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7th. She was one of hundreds teargassed by police that day.
Two weeks later, she was driving Leroy Moton - an African American - to Montgomery, Alabama in her car, when a car carrying 4 members of the KKK started chasing them. During the chase, the KKK members' car pulled up alongside Liuzzo's Oldsmobile, and shot her in the head, killing her instantly.
Moton survived the incident by playing dead until they drove away.
But that night, on the back of Viola's Oldsmobile, was the 1965 Blue and Gold "Water, Winter Wonderland" Michigan Tag.
"Our team thought they would make the plate also available for citizens throughout the state as kind of a silent, quiet way to honor her selfless sacrifice that really, in many ways, reflects who we are as Michiganders, people who will show up for others who recognize fighting for equality is everyone's fight." - SoS Jocelyn Benson, Dec. 2, 2021
So when you see those tags driving around town after you stop humming "Hail to the Victors" for UM, think about Viola, and the ultimate sacrifice she gave for Civil Rights.