BY MOLLIE S. WATERS
The Greenville Standard
Few Alabama politicians have been as controversial as former Governor George C. Wallace.
Wallace was born in 1919 in Clio, Alabama, to a farming family.
According to an online Encyclopedia Britannica article, Wallace worked hard as a young man to achieve his goals.
“Wallace worked his way through the University of Alabama Law School, graduating in 1942,” states the website. “Following military service in World War II, he served as assistant state’s attorney (1946), after which he was elected to two terms in the state legislature.”
Wallace was later elected as a judge of the Third Judicial Circuit of Alabama in 1953, and in 1958, he began his efforts to become the governor of the state.
That year, he was not successful in becoming the Democratic nominee, but because he lost to a candidate who had been supported by the Ku Klux Klan, Wallace changed his moderate views on integration to becoming one of the leading politicians against it.
“Wallace soon became known as the ‘fighting judge’ owing to his defiance of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ investigation of discrimination in black voting rights,” states the website.
This view won him the governorship of Alabama in 1962, and he won national fame in 1963 when he swore to “stand in the schoolhouse door” to prevent black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama.
“Further confrontations at Tuskegee, Birmingham, Huntsville, and Mobile made him a nationwide symbol of intransigence toward racial integration in the schools,” states the online article. “Though a segregationist during this period, Wallace could more accurately be termed a populist who seized on the issues that appealed to the majority of his white constituents.
“The civil-rights issue was a means for him to enter the national spotlight.”
Wallace ran for the position of President of the United States of America (POTUS) in 1968, but he was defeated.
In 1972, he made his second bid to become POTUS, but it would never come to pass, for on May 15, 1972, Wallace was shot by Arthur Bremer, who was later determined to have several mental illnesses.
According to a History.com article about the assassination attempt, Bremer shot Wallace four times during an outdoor rally in Laurel, Maryland.
Wallace survived, but he was paralyzed from the waist down. Though he continued in politics, the presidency passed him by.
Yet, he would be elected as Alabama’s governor again in the 1980s.
“During the 1980s, Wallace’s politics shifted dramatically, especially in regard to race,” states the History.com website article about his assassination attempt. “He contacted civil rights leaders he had so forcibly opposed in the past and asked their forgiveness.
“In time, he gained the political support of Alabama’s growing African American electorate and in 1983 was elected Alabama governor for the last time with their overwhelming support.”
Wallace passed away on September 13, 1988.
Arthur Bremer, who attempted to kill Wallace, served 35 years of his sentence. He was released from prison in 2007, and he is still alive today.