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Mon, 08.25.1919

George Wallace Jr. Segregationist born

George Wallace Jr.

*George Wallace Jr. was born on this date in 1919.  He was a white-American politician and segregationist. 

Born in Clio, Alabama, George Corley Wallace Jr. attended the University of Alabama School of Law and served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war, he won the Alabama House of Representatives election and served as a state judge.

Wallace first sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1958. Initially, a moderate on racial issues, Wallace adopted a hardline segregationist stance after losing the nomination.  Wallace ran for governor again in 1962 and won. Seeking to stop the racial integration of the University of Alabama, Wallace earned national notoriety by standing in front of the entrance of the University of Alabama, blocking the path of Black students. Wallace left office after one term due to term limits, but his wife, Lurleen Wallace, won the next election and succeeded him, though he was the de facto governor.   

Wallace challenged and lost to Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1964 Democratic presidential primaries. In the 1968 presidential election, Wallace ran a third-party campaign in an attempt thereby to enhance the political clout of segregationist Southern leaders.  Wallace won five Southern states but failed to force a contingent election.  Wallace won election to another term as Governor of Alabama in 1970 and ran in the 1972 Democratic presidential primaries, again campaigning for segregation. Arthur Bremer shot him in Maryland, and Wallace remained paralyzed below the waist for the rest of his life.  Bremer was sentenced to 63 years in prison for the shooting, which was later reduced to 53 years following an appeal; he served 35 years of the reduced sentence and was paroled in 2007. 

Wallace won re-election as governor in 1974, and he once again unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1976 Democratic presidential primaries. In the late 1970s, Wallace announced that he became a born-again Christian and moderated his views on race, renouncing his past support for segregation. Wallace left office in 1979 but reentered politics and won election to a fourth and final term as governor in 1982. Wallace is the fourth longest-serving governor in US history, serving 16 years and one day in office. As of 2019, he remains the most recent third-party candidate to receive pledged electoral college votes from any state.  Describing his impact on national politics despite his lack of success in presidential races, two biographers termed Wallace "the most influential loser" of 20th-century American politics.

In his later years, Wallace suffered from deafness and Parkinson's disease.   Wallace became a fixture in his old age, a restaurant a few blocks from the State Capitol. In constant pain, he was surrounded by an entourage of old friends and visiting well-wishers and continued this ritual until a few weeks before his death.  Wallace opposed desegregation and supported the "Jim Crow" policies during the 20th century Civil Rights Movement, declaring in his 1963 inaugural address that he stood for "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."  

In 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. called Wallace "perhaps the most dangerous racist in America today."  Wallace died of septic shock from a bacterial infection in Jackson Hospital in Montgomery on September 13, 1998. He suffered from respiratory problems and complications from his gunshot spinal injury. His grave is located at Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery.  

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