1919 - 1998
George Corley Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama and formidable third part presidential candidate, died September 13, 1998. He was 79.
Wallace was born August 25, 1919 in Clio, Alabama. Wallace was captain and quarterback of his high school football team as well as president of his senior class.
He graduated from the University of Alabama with a law degree in 1942, and served in World War II as a flight engineer on a B-29 bomber.
After the service, Wallace began a political career, getting elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1946, serving until 1953.
From 1953-58, he became the youngest Circuit Judge in both the state and nation. Wallace made an unsuccessful bid for the Alabama governorship in 1958. Four years later he won.
A staunch segregationist, Wallace brought Alabama and himself into the national limelight in 1963 when he denied entrance to two black students at the University of Alabama.
Wallace had ignored federal court orders regarding integration of state universities and high schools. When inaugurated as governor, he had promised the people---“Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.”
When confronted by federal marshals to allow the students to enter the University of Alabama, Wallace backed down to the federal show of force, but he won the respect of the Alabama people for his stand.
State law prevented Wallace from succeeding himself in 1966, so his wife Lurleen ran instead and won. She died 16 months into office from cancer.
Wallace himself was grooming himself as a national political candidate. He became a candidate for the American Independent Party in 1968 when he claimed there wasn’t a “dime’s worth of difference” between the Democrats and Republicans.
He made a strong challenge, garnering almost 14 percent of the popular vote and 46 southern electoral votes. His strong showing allowed Richard Nixon to win with substantially less than a majority over Democrat Hubert Humphrey. Many analysts say Humphrey could have beaten Nixon without the Wallace candidacy.
Wallace won a second term as Alabama governor in 1970, and again became a presidential candidate, this time running as a Democrat. An assassin’s bullet paralyzed him from the waste down on May 15, 1972 during a campaign stop in Laurel, Maryland.
Wallace didn’t get the nomination, but his strong presence was felt at the party convention when a number of issues raised by Wallace were included in the party’s platform.
Wallace ran again in 1976, but also failed to get the nomination. He continued to serve as Alabama’s governor through 1986 when declining heath forced his retirement.
Wallace mellowed his segregationist rhetoric over the years, and shortly before his death he met and shook hands with several Afro-Americans with whom he had disagreements and confrontations over the years, including one of the students he tried to bar from the University of Alabama.
He died in Montgomery, Alabama on September 13, 1998.