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George Wallace

Date of birth : 1919-08-25
Date of death : 1998-09-13
Birthplace : Clio, Alabama, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2011-05-24

George Corley Wallace was an Alabama governor and a third-party presidential candidate in 1968.

Born on Aug. 25, 1919, at Clio, Ala., he studied at the University of Alabama and received his law degree in 1942. That same year he was admitted to the Alabama bar. In 1943 he married Lurleen Burns. They had four children. Between 1942 and 1945 Wallace served in the U.S. Army Air Force. After the war, he became assistant attorney general of Alabama. In 1947 he entered the Alabama Legislature, representing Barbour County, and remained until 1953. He served as judge of the Third Judicial District of Alabama between 1953 and 1958, after which he returned to private law practice in Clayton.

Wallace's experiences in Alabama politics prepared him for his election to governor in 1962. In 1966, barred by Alabama law from another term, he supported his wife's candidacy. Lurleen Wallace won a landslide victory. As governor, she admitted that her husband would continue to make the policy decisions. She died in May 1968. Mean-while her husband had emerged as a national political figure.

An outspoken critic of Federal-government interference in southern schools and an ardent segregationist, Wallace entered a number of presidential primary races in 1964, largely to channel opposition to the civil rights bill. His name appeared on the ballots in at least nine states, and in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Maryland he polled 25, 30, and 43 percent of the vote respectively. At the governors' conference in June, he declared that he would run in the national election wherever he could place his name on the ballot. When the republican party nominated a conservative candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, however, Wallace withdrew from the race.

In February 1968 Wallace announced his intention to again challenge the Democratic and Republican parties in the race for the presidency. His appeal, as in 1964, embraced the discontent of conservative citizens, rich and poor, who believed their welfare endangered by high taxes, liberal court decisions, and Federal interference in local and state affairs. Wallace's program, repeated across the country almost without change, revealed his single-minded concern for property rights and freedom of local and individual decision—which, he warned, were threatened by the Federal bureaucracy.

Wallace's program called for an end to crime in the cities. He denied that he favored segregation but insisted that individuals rather than government officials had the right to decide where their children would go to school and to whom they would sell their houses. Although his campaign lost momentum during its final weeks, his strong states'-rights stand gave him wide support in the Deep South. In the November election he captured Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. His popular vote across the country was almost 14 percent.

In 1970 Wallace won a landslide victory for a second term as governor of Alabama. The following year he married Cornelia Ellis Snively in Montgomery. In 1972 he entered the presidential campaign as a Democrat and had victories in Michigan and Maryland. In May, while campaigning in Maryland, he was shot and was partially paralyzed as a result of the assassination attempt.

In 1982 he ran again and won a fourth term as governor of Alabama. His final term saw him sponsor an Alabama constitutional amendment that created an oil and gas trust fund whose interest supported the finances of all non-education segments of state government. He also worked a controversial bill that restructured the state's job-injury laws along with an attempt to promote a $310 million education bond issue. His further attempts, however, to fund education programs by raising property and income taxes met with failure.

In his later years, Wallace apologized for his stance against integration he held early in his political career. At the same time, he insisted that his infamous statements supporting segregation had to do with his fight against federal courts interfering with state issues rather than a being sign of racism against blacks. In a 1992 interview in Time, Wallace said he eventually realized that "either we had to do away with segregation or we wouldn't have peace in this country." He added, "I know that I love every citizen of Alabama, black and white." In March of 1995, Wallace was present for a reenactment of the famous Selma to Montgomery civil rights march of 1965.


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