Ronald and Elizabeth Howard collection of George Corley Wallace materials
Scope and Contents
Biographical / Historical
Wallace began his political career shortly after returning to civilian life. In late 1945, he was appointed Assistant Attorney General of Alabama and in May, 1946, was elected to the State House of Representatives. As a delegate to the 1948 Democratic National Convention, he did not join the Southern walkout at the convention even though he opposed President Harry S. Truman's proposed civil rights program (which he considered an infringement of state's rights).
In 1953 he was elected Circuit Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit of Alabama where he was known as "the little fightin' judge," a reference to his college boxing days. In contrast to his later stance on segregation, he gained a reputation for fairness regardless of the race of the plaintiff.
In 1958, he was defeated by John Patterson in Alabama's Democratic gubernatorial election, which Wallace blamed on race. Patterson had run with the support of the Ku Klux Klan (an organization Wallace had spoken against) while Wallace had been endorsed by the NAACP. In the wake of this defeat, Wallace adopted a hard-line segregationist stance.
After this change in attitude, Wallace was elected governor in a landslide victory in November 1962. In his inaugural speech he first used the line for which he is probably best know, "In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth... I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." In June of 1963, he stood in the doorway of Foster Auditorium to prevent two African-American students from enrolling in the University of Alabama. This incident has since been known as the "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door."
Besides the segregation issues, Wallace's first term as governor was marked by innovations in Alabama economic development that several other states later adopted. He was the first Southern governor to travel to the 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 is now statewide.
In Novemeber 1963, three days before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Wallace announced his intentions to challenge Kennedy for the Democratic Party's nomination as the 1964 presidential candidate in the general election. Although he won a third of the vote in the Democratic primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and Indiana, it was not enough to win the nomination.
Term limits in the Albama Constitution limited Wallace to a single term as governor. Wallace had his wife, Lurleen, run for the office in 1966 as a surrogate candidate, similar to the 1924 run of Miriam Ferguson for the governorship of Texas on behalf of her husband James Ferguson, who had been impeached and was barred from running. Lurleen won the election but died in office in 1968, during her husband's second presidential campaign. Lieutenant Governor Albert Brewer succeeded Mrs. Wallace until Wallace ran again in 1970.
Almost immediately after defeating Brewer (the single term limit restriction had been changed by this time), Wallace began his second campaign for the United States presidency. He claimed he was no longer opposed to desegregation and that he had always been a moderate. Wallace's campaign went very well for the first four months. Then on May 15, 1972, he was shot four times by Arthur Bremer while campaigning in Laurel, Maryland. One of the bullets lodged in Wallace's spinal column, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. Bremer later asserted that the assassination attempt was motivated by a desire for fame and not for any political ideology. In fact he stated that President Nixon had been an earlier target.
Wallace won four primaries after the assassination attempt, and later, from his wheelchair, spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Miami. He lost the nomination to George McGovern, who in turn was defeated by the Repulican imcumbent, Richard Nixon.
Wallace completed his term as governor and easily won the gubernatorial primary election in 1974. In 1975 he announced his third bid for the presidency, but was dogged by voters' concerns about his health. Jimmy Cater won the nomination and the general election.
Wallace became a born-again Christian and apologized to black civil rights leaders for his earlier segregationist views. His final term as governor saw a record number of African American appointments to government positions.
When Wallace left the governor's office he became something of a fixture at a Montgomery restaurant not far from the State Capitol. In constant pain, but surrounded by an entourage of old friends and well-wishers, he continued this ritual until a few weeks before his death due to septic shock from a bacterial infection on September 13, 1998. He had also suffered from Parkinson's disease and respiratory problems in addition to complications from his gun-shot spinal injury.
Wallace married Lurleen Burns of Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1943; the couple had four children: Bobbi Jo (1944) Parsons, Peggy Sue (1950) Kennedy, George III (1951) and Janie Lee (1961) Dye. Lurleen died in Houston, Texas after losing a long and, for the most part, private battle against cancer on May 7, 1968. Wallace married Cornelia Ellis Snively in 1971; they were divorced in 1978. In 1981, Wallace married country music singer Lisa Taylor; they divorced in 1987.
0.4 Linear Feet (Includes campaign buttons, pins, bumper stickers, flyers, brochures, and a knit shirt)
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