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George Corley Wallace

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George Corley Wallace

This article is about the governor of Alabama. For other people named George Wallace, see George Wallace (disambiguation).
George Wallace
Wallace announces he is a presidential candidate on a third party ticket, February 8, 1968
45th Governor of Alabama
In office
January 14, 1963 – January 16, 1967
Lieutenant James B. Allen
Preceded by John Malcolm Patterson
Succeeded by Lurleen Wallace
In office
January 18, 1971 – January 15, 1979
Lieutenant Jere Beasley
Preceded by Albert Brewer
Succeeded by Fob James
In office
January 17, 1983 – January 19, 1987
Lieutenant Bill Baxley
Preceded by Fob James
Succeeded by H. Guy Hunt
Personal details
Born George Corley Wallace Jr.
(1919-08-25)August 25, 1919
Clio, Alabama
Died September 13, 1998(1998-09-13) (aged 79)
Montgomery, Alabama
Resting place Greenwood Cemetery

Montgomery, Alabama

Political party Democratic
American Independent Party (1968)
Spouse(s) Lurleen Wallace (deceased)
Cornelia Ellis Snively (divorced)
Lisa Taylor (divorced)
Children George Wallace, Jr.

Bobbi Jo Wallace-Parson
Peggy Sue Wallace-Kennedy
Janie Lee Wallace-Dye

Alma mater University of Alabama
Profession Politician, lawyer
Religion Methodist
Military service
Service/branch United States Army Air Corps
Years of service 1942-1945
Rank Staff Sergeant
Battles/wars World War II

George Corley Wallace Jr. (August 25, 1919 – September 13, 1998) was an American politician and the 45th governor of Alabama, having served two nonconsecutive terms and two consecutive terms: 1963–1967, 1971–1979 and 1983–1987. Wallace has the third longest gubernatorial tenure in post-Constitutional U.S. history at 5,848 days.[1] After four runs for U.S. president (three as a Democrat and one on the American Independent Party ticket), he earned the title "the most influential loser" in 20th-century U.S. politics, according to biographers Dan T. Carter[2] and Stephan Lesher.[3]

A 1972 assassination attempt left Wallace paralyzed, and he used a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. He is remembered for his Southern populist and[4] segregationist attitudes during the desegregation period. He eventually renounced segregationism but remained a populist.[5]

Early life

The first of four children, Wallace was born in Clio in Barbour County in southeastern Alabama, to George Corley Wallace, Sr., and his wife Mozell Smith. He was the third of four generations to bear the name "George Wallace." Since his parents disliked the designation "Junior", he was called "George C." to distinguish him from his father, George, and his grandfather, a physician.[6] Wallace's father had left college to pursue a life of farming when food prices were high during World War I; when he died in 1937, his wife had to sell their farmland to pay existing mortgages.[7] Like his parents, George Wallace was a Methodist.[8]

From age ten, Wallace was fascinated with politics. In 1935, he won a contest to serve as a page in the Alabama Senate and confidently predicted that he would one day be governor.[9] Wallace became a regionally successful boxer in high school, then went directly to law school in 1937 at the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa.[10] He was a member of the Delta Chi Fraternity. After receiving a LL.B. degree in 1942, he entered pilot cadet training in the United States Army Air Corps. He failed to complete the course, however, and as a staff sergeant flew B-29 combat missions over Japan in 1945.[11] He served with the XX Bomber Command under General Curtis LeMay, who would be his running mate in the 1968 presidential race. Wallace nearly died of spinal meningitis while serving in the Army, but prompt medical attention with sulfa drugs saved his life. Left with partial hearing loss and permanent nerve damage, Wallace was medically discharged early with a disability pension.

Entry into politics

In 1938, at age nineteen, Wallace contributed to his grandfather's successful campaign for probate judge. Late in 1945, he was appointed as one of the assistant attorneys general of Alabama, and in May 1946, he won his first election as a member to the Alabama House of Representatives. At the time, he was considered a moderate on racial issues. As a delegate to the 1948 Democratic National Convention, he did not join the Dixiecrat walkout at the convention, despite his opposition to U.S. President Harry S. Truman's proposed civil rights program, which Wallace considered an infringement on states' rights. The Dixiecrats carried Alabama in the 1948 general election, having rallied behind Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. In his 1963 inaugural speech as governor, Wallace excused his failure to walk out of the 1948 convention on political grounds.[12]

In 1952, he became the Circuit Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit in Alabama. Here he became known as "the fighting little judge," a nod to his past boxing association.[13] He gained a reputation for fairness regardless of the race of the plaintiff, and J.L. Chestnut, a black lawyer, recalled, "Judge George Wallace was the most liberal judge that I had ever practiced law in front of. He was the first judge in Alabama to call me 'Mister' in a courtroom."[13][note 1] On the other hand, "Wallace was the first Southern judge to issue an injunction against removal of segregation signs in railroad terminals."[14] Wallace blocked federal efforts to review Barbour County voting lists, for which he was cited for criminal contempt of court in 1959.[14] Wallace also granted probation to some blacks, which may have cost him the 1958 gubernatorial election.[15]

Failed run for governor

In 1958, Wallace ran in the Democratic primary for governor. In those days, the Democratic Party was virtually the only party in Alabama, and the Democratic primary was the real contest. This was a political crossroads for Wallace. His main opponent was state attorney general John Malcolm Patterson, who ran with the support of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization Wallace had spoken against. On the other hand, Wallace was endorsed by the NAACP. Wallace lost the nomination by over 34,400 votes.[13] After the election, aide Seymore Trammell recalled Wallace saying, "Seymore, you know why I lost that governor's race?... I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I'll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again."[note 2]

In the wake of his defeat, Wallace "made a Faustian bargain," said Emory University professor Dan Carter. "In order to survive and get ahead politically in the 1960s, he sold his soul to the devil on race."[16] He adopted a hard-line segregationist stance and used this stand to court the white vote in the next gubernatorial election in 1962. When a supporter asked why he started using racist messages, Wallace replied, "You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor."[17]

Governor of Alabama


In the 1962 Democratic primary, Wallace finished first in the primary ahead of State Senator Ryan DeGraffenried, Sr., taking 35 percent of the vote. In the runoff, Wallace won the nomination with 55 percent of the vote. As no Republican even filed to run (though Democratic dominance of state politics was so absolute that a Republican candidate would have stood almost no chance in any event), this all but assured Wallace of becoming the next governor. He won a crushing victory in the November general election, taking 96 percent of the vote.

He took the oath of office on January 14, 1963, standing on the gold star marking the spot where, nearly 102 years earlier, Jefferson Davis was sworn in as provisional president of the Confederate States of America. In his inaugural speech, Wallace used the line for which he is best known:Template:Cquote The line was written by Wallace's new speechwriter, Asa Earl Carter.

The Second Infantry Division from Ft. Benning, GA was ordered to be prepared to enforce the integration of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In a vain attempt to halt the enrollment of black students Vivian Malone and James Hood, Governor Wallace stood in front of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963. This became known as the "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door".

In September 1963, Wallace again attempted to stop four black students from enrolling in four separate elementary schools in Huntsville. After intervention by a federal court in Birmingham, the four children were allowed to enter on September 9, becoming the first to integrate a primary or secondary school in Alabama.[18] [19]

Wallace desperately wanted to preserve segregation. In his own words: "The President (John F. Kennedy) wants us to surrender this state to Martin Luther King and his group of pro-communists who have instituted these demonstrations."[20]

The Encyclopædia Britannica characterized him as not so much a segregationist, but more as a "populist" who pandered to the white majority of Alabama voters.[21] It notes that his failed attempt at presidential politics created lessons that later influenced the populist candidacies of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.[21]

Economics and education

The principal achievement of Wallace's first term was an innovation in Alabama industrial development that several other states later copied: he was the first Southern governor to travel to corporate headquarters in Northern and Northeastern states to offer tax abatements and other incentives to companies willing to locate plants in Alabama.

He also initiated a junior college system that has now spread throughout the state, preparing many students to complete four-year degrees at Auburn University, UAB, or the University of Alabama. The community college in Andalusia is named for Wallace's first wife, Lurleen Burns Wallace.

The University of South Alabama, a new state university in Mobile, was chartered in 1963 during Wallace's first year in office as governor.

Democratic presidential primaries of 1964

On November 15–20, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, Wallace announced his intention to oppose the 35th U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, for the Democratic nomination for President. Days later, Kennedy was dead of an assassin's bullet, and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson moved into the presidency.

Building upon his newfound public image after the University of Alabama controversy, Wallace entered the Democratic primaries on the advice of a public relations expert from Wisconsin.[22] Wallace campaigned strongly by expressing his opposition on integration and a tough approach to crime. In Democratic primaries in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Maryland, Wallace garnered at least a third of the vote running against three Johnson-designated surrogates.[23]

Wallace was known for stirring crowds with his oratory. The Huntsville Times interviewed Bill Jones, Wallace's first press secretary, who recounted "a particularly fiery speech in Cincinnati in 1964 that scared even Wallace." "Wallace angrily shouted to a crowd of 1000 that 'little pinkos' were 'running around outside' protesting his visit, and continued, after thunderous applause, Wallace said, "When you and I start marching and demonstrating and carrying signs, we will close every highway in the country." The audience leapt to its feet "and headed for the exit." Jones said, "It shook Wallace. He quickly moved to calm them down."[15]

At graduation exercises in the spring of 1964 at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, Wallace received an honorary doctorate.[24] At the commencement, Bob Jones, Jr., read the following citation as a tribute to Wallace: Template:Cquote

The 1964 unpledged elector slate

In 1964, Alabama Republicans stood to benefit from the unintended consequences of two developments: (1) Governor Wallace vacating the race for the Democratic presidential nomination against President Johnson, and (2) the designation of unpledged Democratic electors in Alabama, in effect removing President Johnson from the general election ballot. Prior to the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, Wallace and his aides Bill Jones and Seymore Trammell met in the Jefferson Davis Hotel in Montgomery with Alabama Republican leader James D. Martin, who had narrowly lost the U.S. Senate election in 1962 to J. Lister Hill. Wallace and his aides sought to determine if Barry M. Goldwater, the forthcoming GOP presidential nominee who as a senator from Arizona had voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on libertarian and constitutional grounds, would advocate repeal of the law, particularly the public accommodations and equal employment sections. Bill Jones indicated that Wallace agreed with Goldwater's anti-communist stance but opposed the Republican's proposal to make Social Security a voluntary program. Jones stressed that Wallace had sacrificed his own presidential aspirations that year to allow a direct GOP challenge to President Johnson. It was later disclosed that Wallace proposed at the meeting with Martin to switch parties if he could be named as Goldwater's running-mate, a designation later given to U.S. Representative William E. Miller of New York. Goldwater reportedly rejected the overture because of Wallace's lack of strength outside the Deep South.[25]

The unpledged electors in Alabama included the future U.S. senator, James B. Allen, then the lieutenant governor, and the subsequent Governor Albert P. Brewer, then the state House Speaker. National Democrats balked over Johnson's exclusion from the ballot but most supported the unpledged slate, which competed directly with the Republican electors. As the The Tuscaloosa News explained, loyalist electors would have offered a clearer choice to voters than did the unpledged slate.[26]

The 1964 Republican electors were the first since Reconstruction to prevail in Alabama. The Goldwater-Miller slate received 479,085 votes (69.5 percent) to the unpledged electors' 209,848 (30.5 percent). The GOP tide also brought to victory five Republican members of the United States House of Representatives, including William Louis Dickinson, who held the Montgomery-based district seat until 1993, and James D. Martin, the Gadsden oil products dealer who had narrowly lost the 1962 Senate race and had his eyes on Wallace's own position as governor.[27]

First Gentleman of Alabama

Term limits in the Alabama Constitution prevented Wallace from seeking a second term in 1966. Therefore, Wallace offered his wife, Lurleen Burns Wallace, as a surrogate candidate for governor. She defeated in the Democratic primary two former governors, James E. Folsom and John Patterson, Attorney General Richmond Flowers, Sr., and former U.S. Representative Carl Elliott.[28] Largely through the work of Wallace's supporters, the Alabama restriction on gubernatorial succession was later repealed.

Wallace defended his wife's proxy candidacy. He felt somewhat vindicated when Republicans in Idaho denied renomination in 1966 to Governor Robert E. Smylie, author of the article entitled "Why I Feel Sorry for Lurleen Wallace." In his memoirs, Wallace recounts his wife's ability to "charm crowds" and cast off invective: "I was immensely proud of her, and it didn't hurt a bit to take a back seat to her in vote-getting ability." Wallace rebuffed critics who claimed that he had "dragooned" his wife into the race. "She loved every minute of being governor the same way ... that Mrs. Smith (Maine Republican Margaret Chase Smith) loves being senator."[29]

During the 1966 campaign, George Wallace signed state legislation to nullify desegregation guidelines between Alabama cities and counties and the former United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Wallace claimed that the law would thwart the national government from intervening in schools. Critics denounced Wallace's "political trickery" and expressed alarm at the potential forfeiture of federal funds. Republican gubernatorial candidate James D. Martin accused the Democrats of "playing politics with your children" and "neglecting academic excellence."[30]

James Martin also opposed the desegregation guidelines and had sponsored a U.S. House amendment to forbid the placement of students and teachers on the basis of racial quotas. He predicted that Wallace's legislation would propel the issuance of a court order compelling immediate and total desegregaton in all public schools. Martin compared the new Alabama law to "another two-and-a-half minute stand in the schoolhouse door.[31]

Lurleen Wallace overwhelmed Jim Martin in the general election on November 8, 1966. She was inaugurated in January 1967, but on May 7, 1968, she died in office of cancer at the age of forty-one, amid her husband's ongoing second presidential campaign.[32] On her death, she was succeeded by Lieutenant Governor Albert Brewer, who had run without Republican opposition in the Wallace-Martin race. George Wallace's influence in state government hence subsided until his next bid for election in his own right in 1970. He was "first gentleman" for less than a year and a half.

1968 third-party presidential run

Wallace ran for President in the 1968 election as the American Independent Party candidate, with the attorney Tom Turnipseed as his executive director. Wallace hoped to force the House of Representatives to decide the election with one vote per state if he could obtain sufficient electoral votes to make him a power broker. Wallace hoped that southern states could use their clout to end federal efforts at desegregation. His platform contained generous increases for beneficiaries of Social Security and Medicare. Wallace's foreign policy positions set him apart from the other candidates in the field. "If the Vietnam War was not winnable within 90 days of his taking office, Wallace pledged an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops ... Wallace described foreign aid as money 'poured down a rat hole' and demanded that European and Asian allies pay more for their defense."[33]

Richard M. Nixon feared that Wallace might split the conservative vote and allow the Democratic nominee, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, to prevail. Democrats feared Wallace's appeal to organized blue-collar workers would damage Humphrey in northern states like Ohio, New Jersey, and Michigan, also splitting the liberal vote. Wallace ran a "law and order" campaign similar to Nixon's, further incensing Republicans.

In Wallace's 1998 obituary, The Huntsville Times political editor John Anderson summarized the impact from the 1968 campaign: "His startling appeal to millions of alienated white voters was not lost on Richard Nixon and other GOP strategists. First Nixon, then Ronald Reagan, and finally George Herbert Walker Bush successfully adopted toned-down versions of Wallace's anti-busing, anti-federal government platform to pry low- and middle-income whites from the Democratic New Deal coalition."[15] Dan Carter, a professor of history at Emory University in Atlanta added: "George Wallace laid the foundation for the dominance of the Republican Party in American society through the manipulation of racial and social issues in the 1960s and 1970s. He was the master teacher, and Richard Nixon and the Republican leadership that followed were his students."[16]

Wallace considered Happy Chandler, the former baseball commissioner and two-term former governor of Kentucky, as his running mate in his 1968 campaign as a third party candidate; as one of Wallace's aides put it, "We have all the nuts in the country; we could get some decent people–-you working one side of the street and he working the other side." Wallace invited Chandler, but when the press published the prospect, Wallace's supporters objected: Chandler had supported the hiring of Jackie Robinson by the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Wallace retracted the invitation, and (after considering Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harland Sanders)[33] chose Air Force General Curtis LeMay of California. LeMay was considered instrumental in the establishment in 1947 of the United States Air Force and an expert in military affairs. His four-star military rank, experience at Strategic Air Command and presence advising President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis were considered foreign-policy assets to the Wallace campaign. By 1968, LeMay had retired and was serving as chairman of the board of an electronics company, but the company threatened to dismiss him if he took a leave of absence to run for vice president. To keep LeMay on the ticket, Wallace backer and Texas oil tycoon H.L. Hunt set up a million-dollar fund to reimburse LeMay for any income lost in the campaign.[34] At this time, LeMay was best known to the American public as an enthusiastic proponent of the use of nuclear weapons in war. Campaign aides tried to persuade him to avoid questions relating to the topic, but when asked about it at his first interview, he attempted to dispel American "phobias about nuclear weapons" and discussed radioactive land crabs at Bikini atoll. The issue became a drag on Wallace's candidacy for the remainder of the campaign.[35]

Template:See In 1968, when Wallace pledged that "If some anarchist lies down in front of my automobile, it will be the last automobile he will ever lie down in front of," and asserted that the only four letter words of which hippies did not know were w-o-r-k and s-o-a-p; his rhetoric became famous. He accused Humphrey and Nixon of wanting to radically desegregate the South. Wallace said, "There's not a dime's worth of difference between the Republicans and Democrats," a campaign slogan that he had first perfected when Lurleen Wallace defeated James D. Martin.

Major media outlets observed the support Wallace received from extremist groups such as White Citizens' Councils. It has been noted that members of such groups had permeated the Wallace campaign by 1968 and, while Wallace did not openly seek their support, nor did he refuse it.[36] Indeed, at least one case has been documented of the pro-Nazi[37] and white supremacist[38] Liberty Lobby distributing a pro-Wallace pamphlet entitled "Stand up for America" despite the campaign's denial of such a connection.[39]

While Wallace carried five Southern states, won almost ten million popular votes and 45 electoral votes, Nixon received 301 electoral votes, more than required to win the election. Wallace remains the last non-Democratic, non-Republican candidate to win any electoral votes by vote of the people. (John Hospers in 1972, Ronald Reagan in 1976, Lloyd Bentsen in 1988, and John Edwards in 2004 all received one electoral vote from faithless electors, but none won these votes in a general election.) Wallace also received the vote of one North Carolina elector who had been pledged to Nixon.

Many found Wallace an entertaining campaigner. To "hippies" who called him a fascist, he replied, "I was killing fascists when you punks were in diapers." Another quote: "They're building a bridge over the Potomac for all the white liberals fleeing to Virginia."

Wallace decried the United States Supreme Court binding opinion in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, which ordered immediate desegregation of Southern schools - he said the new Burger court was "no better than the Warren court" and called the justices "limousine hypocrites."[40]

Second term as governor

In 1970, Wallace faced incumbent Governor Albert Brewer, who was the first gubernatorial candidate since Reconstruction to seek African-American voter support.[41] Brewer unveiled a progressive platform and worked to build an alliance between blacks and the white working class. Of Wallace's out-of-state trips, Brewer said, "Alabama needs a full-time governor."[42]

In the primary, Brewer received the most votes but failed to win a majority, which triggered a runoff election.[43]

In what former U.S. President Jimmy Carter calls "one of the most racist campaigns in modern southern political history,"[43] Wallace aired television advertising with slogans such as "Do you want the black bloc electing your governor?" and circulated an ad showing a white girl surrounded by seven black boys, with the slogan "Wake Up Alabama! Blacks vow to take over Alabama."[44] Wallace called Brewer "Sissy Britches"[45] and promised not to run for president a third time.[42][43]

Wallace defeated Brewer in the runoff. The day after the election, he flew to Wisconsin to campaign for the upcoming 1972 U.S. presidential election.[42] Wallace, whose presidential ambitions would have been destroyed by a defeat for governor, has been said to have run "one of the nastiest campaigns in state history," using racist rhetoric while proposing few new ideas.[41]

Democratic presidential primaries of 1972 and assassination attempt

On January 13, 1972, Wallace declared himself a Democratic candidate, entering the field with George McGovern, 1968 nominee Hubert Humphrey, and nine other Democratic opponents. In Florida's primary, Wallace carried every county to win 42 percent of the vote; another of his opponents was John V. Lindsay, the liberal mayor of New York, who had switched from Republican affiliation to enter the Democratic presidential primaries. In the 1972 campaign, Wallace announced that he no longer supported segregation and had always been a "moderate" on racial matters.[13] Nevertheless, Wallace expressed continued opposition to desegregation busing.[46] This position was also echoed by Nixon, who in 1969 had nevertheless instituted the first Affirmative Action program, the Philadelphia Plan that established goals and timetables.

For the next four months, Wallace's campaign proceeded well. Then on May 15, 1972, he was shot five times by Arthur Bremer while campaigning at the Laurel Shopping Center in Laurel, Maryland, at a time when he was receiving high ratings in national opinion polls.[47] Bremer was seen at a Wallace rally in Wheaton, Maryland, earlier that day and two days earlier at a rally in Dearborn, outside Detroit, Michigan. Wallace was hit in the abdomen and chest, and as one of the bullets lodged in Wallace's spinal column, he was left paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. A five-hour operation was needed that evening and Wallace had to receive several pints of blood in order to survive. Three others were wounded in the shooting and also survived. Bremer's diary, An Assassin's Diary, published after his arrest shows the assassination attempt was motivated by a desire for fame, not by politics, and that President Nixon had also been an earlier target. On August 4, 1972, Bremer was sentenced to sixty-three years in prison, later reduced to fifty-three years. Bremer served thirty-five and a half years and was released on parole on November 9, 2007. In August 1995, Wallace wrote a letter expressing forgiveness to Bremer, but Bremer never replied. Bremer's actions inspired the screenplay (1972)[48] for the 1976 movie Taxi Driver, with which John Hinckley, Jr. became obsessed before he attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981. The 1975 film Nashville also features a character, played by David Hayward, presumably based on Bremer.

Following the assassination attempt, Wallace was visited at the hospital by Democratic Congresswoman and presidential primary rival Shirley Chisholm,[49] a representative from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn who at the time was the nation's only African-American female member of Congress. Despite their ideological differences and the opposition of Chisholm's constituents, Chisholm felt that to visit Wallace was the humane thing to do.

After the shooting, Wallace won primaries in Maryland and Michigan, but his near assassination effectively ended his campaign. From his wheelchair, Wallace spoke on July 11, 1972, at the Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida.

Since Wallace was out of Alabama for more than twenty days while he was recovering in Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland, the state constitution required Lieutenant Governor Jere Beasley to serve as acting governor from June 5 until Wallace's return to Alabama on July 7. Wallace resumed his gubernatorial duties and easily won the 1974 primary and then the general election, when he defeated Republican State Senator Elvin McCary (1907–1981), a real estate developer, who received less than 15 percent of the ballots cast.[50]

In 1992, when asked to comment on the 20th anniversary of his attempted assassination, Wallace replied, "I've had twenty years of pain."[51]

Democratic presidential primaries of 1976

In November 1975, Wallace announced his fourth bid for the presidency. Ronald Reagan entered the Republican race the same month. Wallace's campaign was plagued by voter concern about his health as well as the media use of images that portrayed him as nearly helpless. His supporters complained that such coverage was motivated by bias, citing the discretion used in coverage of Franklin D. Roosevelt's paralysis, before television became commercially available. In the southern primaries and caucuses, Wallace carried only Mississippi, South Carolina and his home state of Alabama. If the popular vote in all primaries and caucuses were combined, Wallace would have placed third behind Jimmy Carter and California Governor Jerry Brown. After the primaries were completed, and he had lost several Southern primaries to former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, Wallace left the race in June 1976. He eventually endorsed Carter, who faced the Republican incumbent Gerald R. Ford, Jr., who narrowly defeated Reagan for the GOP nomination. Wallace later claimed that he had facilitated a fellow southerner's nomination; in point of fact, no position advocated by Wallace was included in the 1976 Democratic platform.

Final term as governor

Change of positions

In the late 1970s, Wallace announced that he was a born-again Christian and apologized to black civil rights leaders for his past actions as a segregationist. He said that while he had once sought power and glory, he realized he needed to seek love and forgiveness.[note 3] In 1979, Wallace said of his stand in the schoolhouse door: "I was wrong. Those days are over, and they ought to be over."[5]

In the 1982 Alabama gubernatorial Democratic primary, Wallace's main opponents were Lieutenant Governor George McMillan and Alabama House Speaker Joe McCorquodale. In the primary, McCorquodale was eliminated, and the vote went to a runoff, with Wallace holding a slight edge over McMillan. Wallace won the Democratic nomination by a margin of 51 to 49 percent. In the general election, his opponent was Montgomery Republican Mayor Emory Folmar. Polling experts at first thought the 1982 election was the best chance since Reconstruction for a Republican to be elected as governor of Alabama. Ultimately, though, it was Wallace, not Folmar, who made the victory speech on election night.

Wallace's final term as governor (1983–1987) saw a record number of black appointments to state positions.[52] In his fourth term, Wallace became the first governor to appoint two black members in the same cabinet, a number that has been equaled but never surpassed.

On April 2, 1986, Wallace announced at a press conference in Montgomery that he would not run for a fifth term as Governor of Alabama, and would retire from public life once he left the governor's mansion in January 1987.[53] Wallace achieved four gubernatorial terms across three decades, totaling sixteen years in office, a record tied by others but thus far surpassed only by Terry Branstad of Iowa and George Clinton of New York.

Marriages and children

Wallace's first wife, the former Lurleen Brigham Burns, died in 1968, was the first (and, as of 2013, only) woman to be elected governor of Alabama. In 1961, in keeping with the custom of the time to shield patients from the emotional impact of discussion of cancer, Wallace had withheld information from her that a uterine biopsy had found possibly precancerous cells.[54] The couple had four children together: Bobbi Jo (1944) Parsons, Peggy Sue (1950) Kennedy, George III, known as George Junior (1951), and Lee (1961) Dye, who was named after Robert E. Lee. After Lurleen's death the couple's younger children, aged 18, 16, and 6, were sent to live with family members and friends for care (their eldest daughter had already married and left home).[32] Their son, commonly called George Wallace, Jr., is a Democrat-turned-Republican formerly active in Alabama politics. He was twice elected State Treasurer as a Democrat, and twice elected to the Alabama Public Service Commission. He lost a race in 2006 for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. In 2010, Wallace, Jr., failed by a wide margin to win the GOP nod to regain his former position as state treasurer.

On January 4, 1971, Wallace wed the former Cornelia Ellis Snively (1939–2009), a niece of former Alabama Governor Jim Folsom, known as "Big Jim". The attractive "C'nelia" had been a performer and was nicknamed "the Jackie Kennedy of the rednecks." Her mother, the colorful and notorious Ruby Folsom, commented when told of the marriage: "Why, George ain't titty high." The couple had a bitter divorce in 1978. A few months after that divorce, she told Parade magazine, "I don't believe George needs a family. He just needs an audience. The family as audience wasn't enough for his ego."[15] The second Mrs. Wallace died at the age of sixty-nine on January 8, 2009.[55]

On September 9, 1981, Wallace married Lisa Taylor, a country music singer; they divorced in 1987.[56]

Final years

At a restaurant a few blocks from the State Capitol, Wallace became something of a fixture. In constant pain, he was surrounded by an entourage of old friends and visiting well-wishers and continued this ritual until a few weeks before his death. Wallace died of septic shock from a bacterial infection in Jackson Hospital in Montgomery on September 13, 1998. He suffered from respiratory problems in addition to complications from his gunshot spinal injury. He is interred at Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery.


The George Wallace Tunnel on Interstate 10 which runs underneath Mobile, AL is named in his honor. Wallace was the subject of a documentary, George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire, shown by PBS on The American Experience in 2000.[13][57] The TNT cable network also produced a movie George Wallace in 1997, which was a John Frankenheimer film starring Gary Sinise, who would win an Emmy for his performance as Wallace the very night of the real Wallace's death.



External links

Biography portal
  • Governor Wallace's Schoolhouse Door speech archived at the University of Alabama
  • George Wallace article at the Encyclopedia of Alabama
  • George Wallace - Daily Telegraph obituary
  • Oral Histories of the American South
  • Caught on Tape: The White House Reaction to the Shooting of Alabama Governor and Democratic Presidential Candidate George Wallace from History's News Network:
  • American Experience documentary, including complete transcript, teacher tools and links
  • Decatur Daily
  • Political Graveyard
  • , February 27, 1994.
  • The Contenders
  • Speech by George Wallace given on March 16, 1970. Audio recording. From the University of Alabama's Emphasis Symposium on Contemporary Issues.
  • Footage of campaign speech given by George Wallace on May 1, 1964 at Ball State Teachers College in Muncie, Indiana
  • Internet Movie Database
  • WorldCat catalog)
  • Template:NYTtopic
  • Rogers, Carl R, Lyon,Harold C., Tausch, Reinhard: (2013) On Becoming an Effective Teacher -Person-centered Teaching, Psychology, Philosophy, and Diologues with Carl R.Rogers and Harold Lyon. London: Routledge. p. 191.
Political offices
Preceded by
John Malcolm Patterson
Governor of Alabama
January 14, 1963–January 16, 1967
Succeeded by
Lurleen Wallace
Preceded by
Albert Brewer
Governor of Alabama
January 18, 1971–January 15, 1979
Succeeded by
Fob James
Preceded by
Fob James
Governor of Alabama
January 17, 1983–January 19, 1987
Succeeded by
H. Guy Hunt
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Malcolm Patterson
Democratic Party nominee for Governor of Alabama
1962 (won)
Succeeded by
Lurleen Wallace
Preceded by
American Independent Party presidential nominee
1968 (3rd)
Succeeded by
John G. Schmitz
Preceded by
Lurleen Wallace
Democratic Party nominee for Governor of Alabama
1970 (won), 1974 (won)
Succeeded by
Fob James
Preceded by
Fob James
Democratic Party nominee for Governor of Alabama
1982 (won)
Succeeded by
Bill Baxley
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Lurleen Wallace
First Gentleman of Alabama
Succeeded by
Martha Farmer Brewer
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