George C. Wallace Essay, Research Paper
The 1960’s were characterized as an era full of turmoil. During this era, one of the most controversial topics was the fight over civil rights. One of the key political figures against civil rights movement and pro-segregation was George Wallace. Wallace represented the racist southern view. Many Americans were segregationist, but Wallace was adamant about the topic. Many established political figures were assassinated, during the 1960’s. Martin Luther King, JFK, and RFK were all positive visionaries caused controversy throughout that decade. George Wallace was against the modern government, pro-middle class, and against civil rights. Wallace and many other visionaries were cut down to early in life. Wallace was not killed by the assassin’s bullet but his political career was changed. The attempt on Wallace’s life left him a broken man in a wheelchair. People remembered the George Wallace who smoked his cigar and denounced the State Department as communist. Wallace was a feared politician who lived in a state full of beatings and problems. Racism was the norm and Wallace took full advantage of this ploy to gain political attention.
George Corley Wallace was born on August 25, 1919. While attending Barber County High School, he was involved with boxing and football. George even won the state Golden Gloves bantamweight championship not once but twice. Wallace then attended the University of Alabama Law School; this was the same year his father died. Wallace was strapped for cash, so he worked his way through college by boxing professionally, waiting on tables, and driving a taxi. He received his degree in 1942 from the University.
After receiving a medical discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he returned to Alabama. In 1946, Wallace got a job as an assistant to the attorney general for the state of Alabama. Wallace polled to become state representative of Barbour County. During his jaunt as a state representative, he had a number of highlights. They included bills that issued in the industrial era that attracted hundreds of new industries. He was also involved with the GI and Dependents Scholarships Act that provides widows and children access to trade schools and colleges.
Wallace entered the governor’s race in 1958. Patterson ran on the Ku Klux Klan ticket; Wallace refused it. The NAACP endorsed Wallace for governor. Wallace lost the governor’s race in 1958 to John Patterson by 64,000 votes. After being defeated, Wallace dramatically changed his view on segregation and race relations. These changes were what ultimately led to his election as governor in 1962.
Wallace had many signature moments throughout his inaugural term as governor the first occurred on January 11, 1963. During his inaugural address, Wallace promised to protect the state’s “Anglo-Saxon people” from “communistic amalgamation” with blacks. He then ended his speech with the line: “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.” This statement would haunt his political career until the end of his life. The next memorable moment came on June 11, 1963. When he mounted his “stand in the schoolhouse door” to block two black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Wallace fearing significant jail time for defying the federal courts backed off. He then made another speech denouncing “Big-government.” His views drew much criticism from northern politicians and officials. Another tense moment was the nationally publicized fire house and police dog incidents in Birmingham.
The Civil Rights movement intensified while Wallace tried to block the integration of the University of Alabama, stating that it was states rights. The demonstrations in Birmingham of 1963 led to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. No more than two years later, the Selma march accomplished the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Everything that happened in the state of Alabama had a reverse affect on the outcome.
Wallace wanted the legislature to change an amendment banning a sitting governor from being elected for a second term. The anti-Wallace faction of the legislature and Ryan DeGraffenried denied Wallace’s amendment. DeGraffenried who was making his second attempt for governship died in a plane crash. This event happened shortly after the decision to disallow Wallace to run for another term. George put his ailing wife Lurleen on the ballot for governor. Many thought it was a horrible idea to put his dying wife on the ticket. She won by a large margin, which ultimately proved his popularity.
The governors’ message not only worked in the South but also among dissatisfied whites everywhere. Many of his constituents were uncomfortable about black students in their neighborhood schools and black competitors in the workplace. The blend of racists and people with economic grievances allowed Wallace to pull in more than 13 percent of the popular vote. Running as a third party candidate he received five states in the 1968 presidential election. Wallace returned to Alabama following his defeat in order to enter the political scene, again. In 1970, Albert Brewer faced George Wallace for the office of governor. Wallace eventually won a second term as governor.
In 1972, Wallace again entered the presidential primaries, this time under the Democratic Party. The governor was poised to improve on his 1968 run for the presidency. His campaign was running like a Mac truck through the presidential primaries. He started off with a victory in Florida, which left him leading every county in the state. His attacks on busing let conservatives know exactly where he stood. Wallace also began talking less about race because he could afford to. On the Afternoon of May of 1972, at a campaign rally in Laurel, Maryland things turned for the worse. While participating in a final round of hand shaking with the crowd. A frustrated Arthur Bremer, who also tried to assassinate, Nixon set his sights on Wallace. Bremer stalked Wallace for weeks trying to get a chance to shoot him. From a range no more than three feet away, the assassin shot Wallace 3 times, severing his spine and paralyzing him for life. Bremer was a disturbed 21-year-old drifter and now sits in a Maryland prison serving a life sentence. Many knew that his presidential and political career was over. After his hospital stay, Wallace remarkably returned to his duties as governor. In 1974, Wallace easily won the Democratic primaries for an unprecedented third term.
The successive administrations saw many changes in the state of Alabama. The largest highway expansion project was sponsored. Record funds for an educational expenditure were allocated for more than five hundred million dollars. Under Wallace’s tenure, money was raised to improve mental health care, health care, and the Alabama Law Enforcement Planning Agency.
Wallace never ran for president again. The sight of his wheelchair took away from his affect on his constituents. Many of his aids and friends noticed that the crowds were disappearing. In 1982, after disappearing for four years, Wallace returned to the political ring to via for governor. The final conquest for governor was supported by a huge amount of black voter support during the general election. The governor appealed to his white loyalist and catered to thousands of new black voters. This marked a complete turnabout in his political career. However, Wallace acted more like a yes-man than a governor due to the pain pills. The extent of enormous pain limited his concentration and added to his addiction to painkillers. During this final stint as governor health and addiction problems plagued the term. Many things were passed such as the job-injury law and the Alabama Trust Fund that pumped money into education.
Wallace sought meetings with civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and John Lewis. Wallace made appearance at King’s old Montgomery church. Sometimes he would even manage to say, “I’m sorry.” The leaders accepted his change in heart but they could never fully forgive him.
Former Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama, who built his political career on segregation, died September 13, 1998 at Jackson Hospital in Montgomery. He was 79 and had been in declining health since being shot in his 1972 presidential campaign. Wallace, a Democrat who was a longtime champion of states’ rights, dominated his own state for almost a generation. He also became the only Alabamian ever sworn in for four terms as governor, winning elections in 1962, 1970, 1974, and 1982. He retired at the end of his last term in January 1987.
George Wallace was a man of his era who grew up under racist conditions. After the assassination attempt Wallace was a changed man. Later in his life, he admitted that he was wrong for being a segregationist. He has always said that he was not a racist, but he was for segregation. This visionary was responsible for the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, and Civil Rights Movement. Although he did not want them, his actions dictated the results of these Acts and changes. His dreams died, but they established rights for all minorities.