thumbnail of George Wallace: A Politician's Legacy; No. 2; Convenience or Conversion
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<v John Lewis>When we arrived at the apex of a bridge and <v John Lewis>we could see a sea of Alabama state troopers <v John Lewis>as we walk closer to the line of state troopers, a major <v John Lewis>identified himself as Major John Cloud, who said, I'm Major John <v John Lewis>Cloud. This is an unlawful march. <v John Lewis>I give you three minutes to disperse and go back to your church. <v John Lewis>In about a minute and a half, he said troopers advance <v John Lewis>and they put on their gas masks and they came toward us. <v Unnamed Commentator>You'd have to understand the political mood at that time, you were walking a political <v Unnamed Commentator>tightrope. Governor Wallace knew what was right.
<v Unnamed Commentator>I knew what was right. The sheriff knew what was right. <v Unnamed Commentator>But the political mood at the time and the frustration of, you know, it's easy <v Unnamed Commentator>to look back to date 20 years ago and say, you should've done this, that and the other. <v Unnamed Commentator>Had you been here 20 years ago. <v Unnamed Commentator>And when I'd see the outspoken people out there wanted resistance, <v Unnamed Commentator>they wanted you to stop. They want the government to resist. <v Unnamed Commentator>They want to be a local police to resist. The sheriff to resist. <v Unnamed Commentator>The moderates and your business leaders, that now say what should have been done, they <v Unnamed Commentator>were here then, too. But they stayed in the background and they would meet with you at <v Unnamed Commentator>night because they were worried their cash rations weren't ringing, but they would not <v Unnamed Commentator>stand up and speak out and open. And what few elected officials did have gone by the <v Unnamed Commentator>wayside. <v John Lewis>Right after the confrontation at the bridge. <v John Lewis>?inaudible? 765. <v John Lewis>Some of the young people, high school students and others wrote a little song <v John Lewis>called old Wallace, old Wallace, you never can jail us all. <v John Lewis>Segregation is bound to fall. <v John Lewis>And uh that became the rallying cry
<v John Lewis>for hundreds and thousands of young people and people not so <v John Lewis>young to direct our attention to organize a <v John Lewis>much more massive effort to make it from Selma to Montgomery. <v John Lewis>So in a strange way, Wallace did play to play a role because <v John Lewis>he did become a focus point. He became a symbol of resistance. <v Narrator>Plans for a second march began. <v Narrator>And this time Martin Luther King would lead the way. <v Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.>Selma is the focal point, Selma is the heart of the black <v Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.>belt. <v Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.>Selma is a symbol of the resistance to the right to vote. <v Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.>And for that reason, I will have to be here to march with you tomorrow <v Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.>morning in Selma.
<v Narrator>After a series of litigations in Judge Frank Johnson's court, the march was finally <v Narrator>allowed. It was scheduled for Sunday, March 21st. <v Narrator>Judge Johnson ordered the state of Alabama to provide protection for the marchers. <v Narrator>Wallace decided to seek federal help and flew to Washington to meet with President Lyndon <v Narrator>Johnson. <v Lyndon Johnson>We exchanged views on a variety of subjects. <v Lyndon Johnson>I will be glad to go and those with <v Lyndon Johnson>you a little later at my press conference. <v Narrator>Burke Marshall, special assistant to President Johnson. <v Burke Marshall>Governor Wallace, while he was in the White House, at least, was <v Burke Marshall>for a moment looked like a man of history. <v Burke Marshall>Man of the moment, man accepted his role of responsibility. <v Burke Marshall>When he got back to the state of Alabama, of course, he said he didn't have enough money <v Burke Marshall>to do what what he in fact, sort of told the president he
<v Burke Marshall>would do with respect to helping <v Burke Marshall>provide security for the marchers. <v Narrator>Once again, the state's power had been relinquished to the federal government. <v Narrator>On Sunday, the march began with more than 4000 participants. <v Narrator>By Thursday morning, they were massed in front of the state capitol in Montgomery. <v Narrator>As the state's legislators looked on, Martin Luther King addressed an audience of more <v Narrator>than 30000. <v Narrator>Noted black author W.E. Dubois had predicted a concentration of Southern <v Narrator>effort by actual force to deprive the Negro of the ballot or <v Narrator>nullify its use. <v Narrator>On August six, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed <v Narrator>the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed such resistance. <v Narrator>Selma had made the new law possible. <v Narrator>As Wallace's term drew to a close, his popularity was immense.
<v Narrator>His liberal spending policies in defiance of the federal government, enhanced <v Narrator>his appeal. Alabama law prevented the governor from succeeding himself. <v Narrator>But Wallace needed to stay in office to boost his candidacy in the upcoming <v Narrator>1968 presidential election, so he tried to push <v Narrator>a succession bill through the state legislature. <v Unnamed legislator>Could it possibly be that standing up to us might be <v Unnamed legislator>in some rare instances, standing up for Alabama? <v Narrator>Senate filibuster blocked its passage and despite his efforts, Wallace lost <v Narrator>his bid for reelection. <v Narrator>As the 1966 gubernatorial election approached, the leading candidate <v Narrator>appeared to be Senator Ryan deGraffenreid, sr. <v Narrator>He had lost to George Wallace in 1962. <v Narrator>However, deGraffenreid was killed in an airplane accident while campaigning. <v Narrator>Within a few days, a new hopeful announced her candidacy.
<v Lurleen Wallace>Ladies and gentlemen, I will be a candidate for governor <v Lurleen Wallace>of Alabama. <v Lurleen Wallace>My election would enable my husband to carry his programs <v Lurleen Wallace>for the people of Alabama. <v Narrator>Lurleen Wallace had recently endured a bout with cancer, but appeared in good health. <v Narrator>Wallace was soundly criticized for the decision that made his wife a candidate. <v Interviewer>Whose suggestion was it, hers or yours? <v George Wallace>Well, I came here one day at the mansion, upset, <v George Wallace>tired, worn out. <v George Wallace>And I said, honey, let's just go ahead and not fool with a <v George Wallace>succession matter and go on back to Clayton and for years now maybe we run again. <v George Wallace>She said now listen. She had two couples eating lunch. <v George Wallace>She said, I don't care whether you want me to run, now I've gotten 5000 letters
<v George Wallace>ask me to run, and I'm going to run. <v George Wallace>I can win without you. If you don't want to be for me, I'm all right anyway. <v George Wallace>So it wasn't my idea, my original suggestion, to <v George Wallace>her. But she insisted on doing so. <v Bob Ingram>Lurleen was such a dear person, she enjoyed going out and meeting the people and, and I <v Bob Ingram>think toward the end she got a little excited about it. <v Bob Ingram>But to say that she said, let me run and I'll do <v Bob Ingram>it and all this is hogwash. No way. George wanted her to run and <v Bob Ingram>he knew what he was doing. <v Narrator>Most rallies opened with a short, prepared speech by Mrs. Wallace, then George <v Narrator>took over. <v George Wallace>There's more in this race and the election of my life. <v George Wallace>Every large newspaper in this country has written that this is a fateful election <v George Wallace>for both national parties. I can tell you, as I told you in April, <v George Wallace>they've got an inferiority complex. <v George Wallace>They are ashamed of the people of our state. <v George Wallace>They feel like something about this, like G-R-O-W, you know, that Get Rid of Wallace <v George Wallace>?inaudible? that organized in Atlanta.
<v George Wallace>They don't think Alabamans are somebody ?inaudible? <v George Wallace>they were glad to have you all here. We hope you might convince them not to get rid of <v George Wallace>Wallace. <v Narrator>They didn't get rid of Wallace. <v Narrator>In fact, the election was no contest. <v Narrator>Lurleen Wallace won in a field of 9 candidates with no <v Narrator>runoff. George Wallace made no bones about his role in his wife's <v Narrator>administration. Her main purpose in holding office was to provide <v Narrator>the springboard for her husband's 1968 presidential race. <v Narrator>This time, Wallace would run on a third party ticket. <v Narrator>Wallace said the purpose of the American Independent Party was to force the national <v Narrator>parties to give the people a choice. <v George Wallace>So our movement is not spotty. It's not sick. <v George Wallace>No, it's a national movement. <v George Wallace>And you can rest assured that the other two national parties in the country are <v George Wallace>very concerned about this move because they know that they have not given <v George Wallace>the average citizen of Kalamazoo a choice. <v George Wallace>I'm not on a candidate platform. <v George Wallace>They have paid more attention in the last number of years to those few people who had
<v George Wallace>more voice in national and international affairs, then to the fine people <v George Wallace>of Kalamazoo in our country. So we are going to win the election on November fifth. <v George Wallace>Don't you worry about this. <v George Wallace>You just have to read it and weep my friends, down front, because it's true and I want to <v George Wallace>say you're outnumbered in this country and you're outnumbered not only in Kalamazoo, but <v George Wallace>you're outnumbered throughout the United States. <v George Wallace>Everything's fine. <v George Wallace>Everything's fine. Glad to see all you young folks here. <v George Wallace>I think that that's right, you need to see a good barber. <v George Wallace>You need to go to the barber I think. You need to see a good barber. <v Narrator>All third party movements face inherent problems, and Wallace had his own special <v Narrator>difficulties. He had to combat his racial image, convince people <v Narrator>that their vote would not be wasted, and he had to get on the ballot. <v Narrator>Each state required different qualifications from third party candidates.
<v Narrator>Wallace picked one of the toughest first, California. <v Narrator>Press Secretary Bill Jones helped devise the strategy. <v Bill Jones>The press of course followed Wallace, they didn't go to the offices. <v Bill Jones>They didn't know where the work was getting done. <v Bill Jones>The press kept writing that we would not get the job done, but we kept a <v Bill Jones>daily total. We knew how many people had registered each day. <v Bill Jones>And course, they had to be certified by the Secretary of State in Sacramento, and <v Bill Jones>they stayed 2 or 3 or 4 weeks behind. <v Bill Jones>So the press never really knew what we were doing out there, which was all right with us. <v Bill Jones>We didn't particularly care whether they knew or not because we wanted to get the job <v Bill Jones>done. We, we ended up with well over 100000. <v Bill Jones>The charisma around that man motivated the staff a lot of times. <v Bill Jones>A lot times it turned us off. He's not the most grateful person I've ever known in my <v Bill Jones>life, he seldom said thank you for <v Bill Jones>doing things he, he expected. <v Bill Jones>And I must say, though, this. He expects you to do the job and he turns you loose to do
<v Bill Jones>it. He didn't interfere much with doing the job. <v George Wallace>What has it got to be in this country that only knows who ?inaudible? <v George Wallace>only those who occupy a position <v George Wallace>in the Bureau and Washington are the only ones who know what <v George Wallace>is good for your child and what's good for you. <v George Wallace>And, you know, one of the issues in the country today? <v George Wallace>Is this group of pseudo intellectuals that we <v George Wallace>find on some college campuses. Some with pointed heads ?inaudible? straight. And we also <v George Wallace>find in some newspaper editors' offices and on some <v George Wallace>judges' benches. We find them saying that we must write a guideline <v George Wallace>for every working man on the street. <v George Wallace>The ?inaudible?. The beautician. The barber. <v George Wallace>The field worker. The textile worker. The timber worker. <v George Wallace>The postal worker. <v George Wallace>We must write a guideline and tell them when to get up- when <v George Wallace>they get up in the morning and go to bed at night.
<v George Wallace>Well, the average man in Arkansas in the country doesn't need anybody to tell them when <v George Wallace>to get up in the morning or go to bed at night and they're going to find that out <v George Wallace>in November this year in this state and throughout the United States. <v Narrator>Wallace's <v Narrator>efforts shocked re experts. <v Narrator>He succeeded in getting on the ballot in all 50 states. <v Narrator>No third party had ever done this well. <v Narrator>But tragic news from home spoil the celebration. <v Narrator>Lurleen Wallace again had cancer. <v Narrator>Alabama's governor was in a fight for her life. <v Narrator>She flew to Houston and checked into M.D. <v Narrator>Anderson Hospital for treatment. <v Narrator>Wallace was torn between campaigning and caring for his ailing wife, <v Narrator>and he was criticized for not giving up his political efforts totally. <v Narrator>Anita Smith covered Lurlene illness for the Birmingham News. <v Narrator>She saw a very private side of the Wallaces. <v Anita Smith>They were in a period where they were spending a lot of time together.
<v Anita Smith>Both of them knew that this was precious time, that she <v Anita Smith>might not recover, and they laughed and joked <v Anita Smith>and he hovered. He was nervous. <v Anita Smith>He paced. I can see now pacing those hallways of M.D. <v Anita Smith>Anderson. He conferred with the doctors. <v Anita Smith>He talked to them. He asked her over and over, how do you feel? <v Anita Smith>How do you feel? Are you alright? Are you alright? <v Anita Smith>And yeah, he had trouble after. <v Narrator>Wallace kept campaigning and the pace picked up. <v Narrator>He was gaining support and according to one reporter, Wallace was becoming <v Narrator>the most powerful and secure Southern politician since the fall of the Confederacy. <v George Wallace>We're not going to allow hundreds of American servicemen to be killed every week in <v George Wallace>Southeast Asia. <v George Wallace>That's right, throw something else. You're a real fella throwing things. <v George Wallace>That's right. <v George Wallace>You better throw them now because you're not gonna throw it after November 5th, I can
<v George Wallace>tell you that much. <v George Wallace>I can take anything you anarchists dish out. <v George Wallace>You remember that. You remember that. <v Narrator>Wallace had struck a chord and not just in the South, as he had discovered <v Narrator>in 1964, the South resentments were not a regional phenomenon. <v George Wallace>There is no excuse or grievance for anybody in this country to give him the right <v George Wallace>to destroy the imperative of two 200 million people. <v George Wallace>And when the national Democrats and the national Republicans tell you that we must <v George Wallace>remove the causes and the reason then they in effect, saying <v George Wallace>you have a cause and a reason to burn the city down. <v George Wallace> And I'm tired of saying you got a cause and a reason, because there is no <v George Wallace>cause and reason other than this. <v George Wallace>You know what the cause and reason is, it's criminalities.
<v George Wallace>It's militants and activists and anarchists as revolutionaries and it's <v George Wallace>communists in this country [drowned out by applause]. <v Bob Ingram>Some of his most faithful supporters out in the boonies probably never spent more than 20 <v Bob Ingram>seconds shaking his hand in their life, but they'll fight you for it to this day. <v Bob Ingram>They remember he's, he's, he really knows my problems and wants to <v Bob Ingram>do something about them. It's marvelous. <v Bob Ingram>Gosh, what an evangelist he would've made. <v Brandt Ayers>Through George Wallace, it was them who were outsmarting <v Brandt Ayers>that fast talking smart ass Yankee reporter from CBS. <v Brandt Ayers>You know, the South is winning. <v Brandt Ayers>I am winning. I am finally having my day. <v Jack Nelson>Wallace knew I was from Talladega, Alabama, and <v Jack Nelson>so he, he kind of used me as a prop a lot of times, you know, he'd look <v Jack Nelson>at me out there and say, there he is
<v Jack Nelson>out there from the Los Angeles Times. <v Jack Nelson>Says, look at him, I made him get his haircut. <v Jack Nelson>And, you know, I had a flattop haircut back in those days. <v Jack Nelson>And, uh, so one day, about the third time he had said that after one of his ro- <v Jack Nelson>rallies, I said, well, Governor, I said, how come you always tell people that <v Jack Nelson>you made me get my haircut? I said, you know, that I've always had a flattop, <v Jack Nelson>long as you've known me. And he said, well, let's put it this way, about half what you <v Jack Nelson>write about me so, so about half what I say about you so. <v George Wallace>Wallace's platform called for the election of federal judges and cuts <v George Wallace>in the federal bureaucracy. <v George Wallace>The platform also proposed a firm hand in Vietnam. <v George Wallace>Wallace emphasized that point when he chose Gen. <v George Wallace>Curtis LeMay as a running mate. <v George Wallace>LeMay previously commanded U.S. <v George Wallace>bomber forces. When his candidacy was announced at a Pittsburgh press <v George Wallace>conference, Jack Nelson asked LeMay about the use of nuclear weapons <v George Wallace>in Vietnam.
<v Gen. Curtis LeMay>I don't believe the world will end if we explode a nuclear weapon, <v Gen. Curtis LeMay>and on the other hand, I don't want to explode one unless we have to. <v Gen. Curtis LeMay>As a matter of fact, I don't want to stick the rusty knife in anybody's belly until I <v Gen. Curtis LeMay>have to either. <v Jack Nelson>Wallace heard this and he could see he was having a problem. <v Jack Nelson>Wallace usually, you know, pretty well, was able to handle himself in a situation like <v Jack Nelson>this. And so he he ran back and he said, well, now he said, wait a minute, the General, <v Jack Nelson>he don't know how to handle you folks. <v Jack Nelson>I'll take you. I know how to. And he tried to pull General away, but General LeMay <v Jack Nelson>wouldn't be pulled away and he stayed back there and answered 2 or 3 other questions. <v Jack Nelson>And frankly speaking, I think scared the hell out of a lot of people because he sounded <v Jack Nelson>like if he got in there, you know, maybe he'd be willing to drop the a-bomb. <v Jack Nelson>At least that's what a lot of people thought. <v George Wallace>Mr. Nelson, he hasn't said anything about using nuclear weapons. <v George Wallace>And we-. <v Gen. Curtis LeMay>Governor. <v Unnamed journalist>Governor, give us a base out of one ?inaudible? <v Unnamed journalist>if you wouldn't mind. <v George Wallace>General LeMay be glad to answer your question. <v George Wallace>I didn't get the question. What is the question?
<v Unnamed jouranlist 2>I was asking the Governor if he agreed with what you said. <v George Wallace>He said that you agreed to use nuclear weapons and I said ?inaudible? <v Gen. Curtis LeMay>No, I, I gave you a discussion on the phobia that we <v Gen. Curtis LeMay>had in this country about the use of nuclear weapons. <v Gen. Curtis LeMay>I prefer not to use them. I preferred not to use any weapons at all. <v Unnamed jouranlist 2>If you found the bomb necessary to win the war would you use it? <v Gen. Curtis LeMay>And if I found it necessary, I would use anything that we could dream up, anything <v Gen. Curtis LeMay>that we could dream up, including nuclear weapons, if it was necessary. <v Jack Nelson>And at that time, as I remember, Wallace was about 21 percent in the <v Jack Nelson>polls. He had really gone up and that was a huge percentage <v Jack Nelson>for him to be polling at that time. <v Jack Nelson>21 percent of the American electorate. <v Jack Nelson>And after that, he kind of went steadily down because that- I think that <v Jack Nelson>particular segment led all of the evening news broadcasts and the next morning too <v Jack Nelson>and created quite a, quite a hubbub. <v Narrator>Wallace's final vote tally caused quite a hubbub, too. <v Narrator>He received almost 10 million votes.
<v Narrator>13.5 percent of the total. More important, he captured 146 <v Narrator>electoral votes and nearly threw the election into the House of Representatives. <v Narrator>Wallace was almost the kingmaker. <v Narrator>Do you think that your candidacy resulted in the election of Richard <v Narrator>Nixon as president in 1968? <v George Wallace>Some analyses have shown that that <v George Wallace>Humphrey lost a number of key states like New Jersey. <v George Wallace>Well, I've got a good vote in the working areas that otherwise would have voted for <v George Wallace>Mr. Humphrey. As a consequence, that I kept him from, Humphrey, <v George Wallace>from being elected, then others say that I caused him to lose 5 southern <v George Wallace>states, but the other states had more electoral vote than <v George Wallace>the 5 southern states. So I think it's an argument between 2, 2 groups of <v George Wallace>people as to which one helped elect. <v George Wallace>Most of them think I elected neighbors to Nixon because I took votes away from <v George Wallace>him. But many people analyze
<v George Wallace>it as I took enough away from the working area of certain states <v George Wallace>to cause him to go in a very close vote like New Jersey for, for Nixon instead <v George Wallace>of Humphrey. <v Narrator>What do you think? <v George Wallace>I really don't know, I can't second guess the people of the country. <v George Wallace>And no one else can either. <v Narrator>Many Wallace believers feel that he reached his political peak in 1968. <v Narrator>After that election, Wallace's staff was invaded by a new group headed by <v Narrator>his brother, Gerald. Arguments flared over the use of leftover money <v Narrator>and criticism of campaign strategy. <v Narrator>The staff split and the old guard left the Wallace camp, <v Narrator>but a greater loss had already occurred. <v Narrator>Governor Lurleen Wallace died on May 7th, 1968. <v Narrator>George Wallace was left with his grief, his aspirations and his 4 <v Narrator>motherless children. And the state of Alabama mourn the passing of <v Narrator>one of its most popular governors.
<v Narrator>Lieutenant governor, Albert Brewer, finished Lurleen Wallace's term. <v Narrator>As the 1970 gubernatorial race neared, Brewer prepared for <v Narrator>his campaign, bolstered by a promise of support from George Wallace. <v Narrator>But Wallace couldn't resist a political race. <v Narrator>He broke his vow to Brewer and announced his own candidacy. <v Bob Inman>I think that was a campaign where George Wallace did not want to have to use the racial <v Bob Inman>issue. He knew he wanted to run for president again in 1972, <v Bob Inman>and he wanted the office as a launching pad for another bid for president. <v Bob Inman>And he wanted, above all things, not to have to use the racial issue. <v Bob Inman>And he didn't until he was absolutely forced to. <v Bob Inman>When, when Brewer led the primary and Wallace knew he had to come back and win the <v Bob Inman>runoff. <v Bob Inman>We all knew in the Brewer campaign what he would do because it was the only thing he <v Bob Inman>could do. And we knew what the outcome was going to be, too.
<v Bob Inman>I don't think there was a soul in the Brewer campaign who was not honest with themselves, <v Bob Inman>who didn't say what, when Brewer didn't win it in the primary that <v Bob Inman>it's all over because we know what George is going to do, and we know what's going to <v Bob Inman>happen. And there was, it was really a helpless feeling. <v Narrator>There were accusations of smear politics associated with your <v Narrator>campaign. <v George Wallace>There are also allegation of smear on the other group, too. <v George Wallace>But I never said more than a harm word about. <v George Wallace>I have never mentioned- I've never edmention my opponent's name in a race for governor. <v Narrator>You know, of the public, the visual campaign <v Narrator>aides that smeared Brewer. <v George Wallace>I don't know of anybody smeared Brewer. In other words, I received several <v George Wallace>hundred thousand votes. There's no way I can keep people from making a statement about <v George Wallace>some other candidate. A lot of things said bad about me and said about me <v George Wallace>today so I cannot be responsible for every individual.
<v George Wallace>But what I did, I talked about the issues. <v George Wallace>I did not mention my opponent's name. <v Narrator>After the primary, Wallace's staff helped register more than 40000 new voters, <v Narrator>most of whom voted for Wallace in the runoff. <v Narrator>He beat Brewer by 24000 votes, one of the closest elections <v Narrator>in Alabama's history. <v Narrator>Wallace's second gubernatorial elections set up a political power structure in Alabama <v Narrator>that was unequal. Now the victor could set his sights on another race, <v Narrator>the 1972 presidential election and a new running <v Narrator>mate was about to join the Wallace family in the governor's mansion. <v Narrator>Just before his inauguration, Wallace married Cornelia Ellis Snively, <v Narrator>who was no stranger to Alabama politics. <v Narrator>She was the niece of former Governor Jim Folsom and had lived in the governor's mansion <v Narrator>during Folsom's first term.
<v Narrator>The issues in the 72 presidential campaign would be tax reform, inflation <v Narrator>and school bussing. <v Narrator>A Democratic field was full of hopefuls, including Senators Hubert Humphrey, <v Narrator>Henry Scoop Jackson, Ed Muskie and George McGovern. <v Narrator>George Wallace had been running for a long time, first as a Democrat, <v Narrator>and attempt to run as a Republican with Barry Goldwater, and in 68, <v Narrator>as a highly successful third party candidate. <v Narrator>Wallace took his campaign south and entered the Florida primary. <v George Wallace>But those who pretend to do the most are those who sometimes just defend the Washington <v George Wallace>crowd. Go up to their school system. <v George Wallace>All these folks are living over in Maryland. <v George Wallace>They've got so many bridges built across the Potomac River where they can get out fast, <v George Wallace>you know. <v George Wallace>We'll be able to send a message to the national-. <v Narrator>Wallace was first in a field of 11 candidates. <v Narrator>He got 42 percent of the vote. <v Narrator>He claimed 75 of 81 delegates. <v Narrator>The columnist Tom Wicker wrote that Wallace's Florida win had a profound influence
<v Narrator>on Mr. Nixon and his associates. <v Narrator>Wicker writing that it limited their vision and insidiously undermined their political <v Narrator>confidence. After the Florida victory, Wallace ran second <v Narrator>in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts with minimal campaigning, <v Narrator>pleased with those outcomes, Wallace entered the Wisconsin primary, but not <v Narrator>soon enough. <v George McGovern>And I think that Wallace might have done better in Wisconsin if he had put more <v George McGovern>time and resources into that state. <v George McGovern>As it was, as I remember it, he came in second only to me. <v George McGovern>I had expected that the person to beat in Wisconsin <v George McGovern>would be Muskie and that next to him would be Humphrey, that <v George McGovern>Wallace would be somewhere down the, down the line. <v George McGovern>So I frankly was amazed that Wallace came in a strong second <v George McGovern>in Wisconsin. I think Humphrey and Muskie were very surprised too. <v Brandt Ayers>What was important to him? <v Brandt Ayers>It was the feelings of people and mainly
<v Brandt Ayers>working class rural whites. <v Brandt Ayers>He was ki- he was an ethnic leader. <v Brandt Ayers>The importance of women who were the third generation <v Brandt Ayers>in their family to work at the local textile mill. <v Brandt Ayers>The gizzard splinters and gut pullers at the chicken processing <v Brandt Ayers>plants. Steel workers in Gary, Indiana. <v Brandt Ayers>They, uh, those good old Irish boys who were no strangers to <v Brandt Ayers>defeat and scorn themselves in the taverns of South Boston. <v Brandt Ayers>Those people's feelings, the condition of their lives, the <v Brandt Ayers>hurt that people who had been bypassed and looked down on. <v Brandt Ayers>That was important to George Wallace. <v Brandt Ayers>That could bring tears to his eyes. I think honest tears. <v Brandt Ayers>And those were the people he championed. <v George Wallace>With the breakdown of law and order-. <v Narrator>By the end of April, there was no clear cut leader.
<v Narrator>Both McGovern and Humphrey had gained momentum, but Wallace still looked strong. <v Narrator>It was becoming apparent that George Wallace was not merely a spoiler candidate. <v Narrator>On May 15th, 1972, the Wallace caravan pulled into a shopping <v Narrator>center in Laurel, Maryland. <v Narrator>After speaking to a receptive crowd, the governor took off his jacket and walked down <v Narrator>the platform steps. <v Narrator>Wallace and three other people were wounded, but the governor was hurt the worst. <v Narrator>He was hit 4 times from only 18 inches away. <v Narrator>35 minutes after those shots rang out, he was in the emergency room at Holy <v Narrator>Cross Hospital. Wallace would live miraculously, but he would <v Narrator>never walk again. His assailant, Arthur Bremer, had been following Wallace <v Narrator>for quite some time. Although crippled and facing a long road to recovery, Wallace
<v Narrator>was not paralyzed politically. <v Narrator>The day after his shooting, he carried Michigan and Maryland. <v Narrator>After a two month period of recovery, Wallace left Holy Cross Hospital and <v Narrator>flew to Miami for the Democratic convention. <v Narrator>Despite his courage, Wallace would have little political impact on the convention if <v Narrator>a crucial battle over the California delegates was lost. <v Narrator>George McGovern had won that state's primary and was entitled to all 271 <v Narrator>delegate votes under a winner take all system. <v Narrator>Hubert Humphrey desperately fought to change the rules, but he lost the battle. <v Narrator>California's vote put McGovern over the top. <v Narrator>If he had lost Humphrey's and Wallace's combined delegates, it might have made <v Narrator>a difference in the choice of the Democratic nominee. <v Narrator>What sort of conversations did you have with Mr. Humphrey about second place <v Narrator>on the ticket? <v George Wallace>Well, we had 2 groups of people meeting with each other, and I never met with him myself
<v George Wallace>on it, but it was understood. And he called me up the night when we lost <v George Wallace>the vote on the California delegation on receiving the delegation <v George Wallace>they gave him. The winner-take-all, which otherwise had been percentage wise, <v George Wallace>then he and I would have had more votes and Mr. McGovern would, but they wouldn't let <v George Wallace>California vote. As a result, he lost by 11 votes. <v George Wallace>Humphrey lost the election by 11 votes, the nomination, rather, by 11 votes. <v George Wallace>Had he won that nomination, I would have been his vice presidential running <v George Wallace>mate. <v George McGovern>It's possible that he dangled that possibility in front of George <v George McGovern>Wallace, but I can't believe that in a crunch, Humphrey, a longtime <v George McGovern>advocate of civil rights, would have offered the vice presidency of the United <v George McGovern>States to George Wallace. If he had, I think it would have violated <v George McGovern>the credibility of both of them. <v Ray Jenkins>And in fact, I asked Hubert Humphrey himself in a private
<v Ray Jenkins>conversation in December of 1972 at the LBJ <v Ray Jenkins>Library in Dallas, Texas, in Austin, Texas, <v Ray Jenkins>whether he had done this. <v Ray Jenkins>I said senator or Governor Wallace has <v Ray Jenkins>said that you offered him the vice presidency in 1970. <v Ray Jenkins>True, too. Is that true? He said, no, it is not. <v Narrator>The governor now faced a long and trying period of recovery and rehabilitation. <v Narrator>Each day consisted of strenuous therapy and conducting most business <v Narrator>on the telephone. In addition to his physical problems, the governor was confronted <v Narrator>with political difficulties as well. <v Narrator>Judge Frank Johnson had placed the Alabama mental health system under federal control. <v Narrator>Several former Wallace aides and supporters were indicted for fraud and <v Narrator>the state's inflation and unemployment rates were soaring. <v Narrator>But another gubernatorial election was just around the corner.
<v Narrator>Soon, Wallace could forget the problems of being governor and do what he loved <v Narrator>best, run for office. <v Narrator>And this time, there would be no fight over succession. <v Narrator>The legislature had finally approved a succession bill. <v Narrator>Wallace won the election in a runaway. <v Narrator>The only gubernatorial race he would win with no runoff. <v Narrator>I want to ask you about 74. You were hurt. <v Narrator>You were tired. <v Narrator>Were you, were you bored? <v George Wallace>Bored? <v Narrator>Yeah. When yo- Why did you. Why did you run again? <v George Wallace>Well, of course, the only way I could make a living, I suppose, to be governor. <v George Wallace>I'll answer that way. <v Narrator>A noticeable change had occurred in the electorate since Wallis's last election, <v Narrator>Blacks were voting in great numbers and the power of their vote was obvious. <v W.C. Patton>After we began registering in larger numbers, <v W.C. Patton>I think Wallace came to the conclusion that
<v W.C. Patton>I'm going to have to change my, my way of living and my thinking, <v W.C. Patton>and I'm going to have to join with, uh, with these groups and, uh, <v W.C. Patton>uh, get on the side of where the pies are. <v W.C. Patton>The pies are scattered among the Blacks and the whites. <v Narrator>In Governor Wallace's first 8 years, he made over 1500 appointments. <v Narrator>Only 7 of those went to Blacks. <v Narrator>But in 1974, Wallace admitted he was wrong on segregation <v Narrator>and openly courted the Black vote. <v Narrator>Wallace's win prompted one-time supporter John Cholent to exclaim that Jesus Christ <v Narrator>and Robert E. Lee could not have defeated George Wallace in that wheelchair. <v Narrator>Sympathy vote or not, he certainly didn't have that caliber of competition in the 74 <v Narrator>gubernatorial campaign. But in 2 years, that wheelchair <v Narrator>and the condition of a crippled politician in it would become an issue. <v Narrator>As in the 1972 campaign, Florida proved
<v Narrator>to be the crucial state for Wallace. <v Narrator>He campaigned heavily, trying to project the image of a vital, healthy candidate, <v Narrator>but the adjustments were almost insurmountable. <v Narrator>As he frankly conceded, all they see are the spokes of my wheelchair. <v Narrator>Wallace garnered 31 percent of the Florida vote, but lost to Jimmy Carter, who polled <v Narrator>33 percent. It was a tremendous boost for the Georgia governor, <v Narrator>but a critical setback for the governor of Alabama. <v Narrator>The handwriting was on the wall. <v Narrator>Wallace finally withdrew from the race and endorsed Jimmy Carter. <v Narrator>Any hopes of becoming president of the United States were over for George Corley <v Narrator>Wallace. <v Narrator>The governor was also having personal problems, problems that culminated in a divorce <v Narrator>from Cornelia in 1978. <v Narrator>It was a blue year for Wallace. <v Narrator>He grew discouraged as his term drew to a close. <v Narrator>For the first time since 1962, he would be out of the office that
<v Narrator>had become his life. He no longer had a political ring in which to fight. <v Narrator>So he turned to the academic world as a fundraiser for the University of Alabama <v Narrator>in Birmingham. As director of rehabilitative services, Wallace <v Narrator>raised approximately 2 million dollars for the medical school between 1979 <v Narrator>and 1981. <v Narrator>Those 3 years weighed heavily, though, on Wallace physically. <v Narrator>His pain was at times agonizing. <v Narrator>But the hurt from being away from politics was worse. <v Narrator>And the only cure for Wallace was a political race. <v Narrator>In 1982, he announced that he was running for an unprecedented <v Narrator>fourth term as governor. <v Narrator>Wallace had never run for office without a wife at his side. <v Narrator>This campaign would be no different. <v Narrator>His new bride was Lisa Taylor, who had once performed with her sister Mona <v Narrator>at Wallace rallies during the 1968 presidential campaign.
<v Narrator>None of his opponents held as many political IOUs as Wallace. <v Narrator>The Democratic primary proved it. <v Narrator>He led, followed by Lieutenant Governor George McMillan. <v Narrator>The Black vote would be the deciding factor in the runoff. <v Dr. William Barnard>By 82, the political climate had changed <v Dr. William Barnard>so much and Wallace had changed so much. <v Dr. William Barnard>It is a totally different constellation. <v Dr. William Barnard>In 82, he narrowly wins by putting together that old <v Dr. William Barnard>dream of a populist coalition. <v Dr. William Barnard>That is the rural whites, the working class whites in the cities <v Dr. William Barnard>and Blacks. <v Dr. William Barnard>Enough Blacks in the cities and in the countryside to narrowly win a <v Dr. William Barnard>majority. <v W.C. Patton>Black people are quick to forgive folks and they are quick to forget. <v W.C. Patton>And he had appeared that he had had a change of heart. <v W.C. Patton>And that a lot of them, a lot of blacks throughout <v W.C. Patton>the state decided that they would join and try to get on his bandwagon
<v W.C. Patton>to see what type of, uh, he had to offer <v W.C. Patton>in terms of jobs and other opportunities. <v W.C. Patton>So I don't know whether he was the lesser of the evils. <v W.C. Patton>Well, it's a matter of people forgetting and forgiving. <v J.L. Chestnut>He grew up around Blacks, very close to them. <v J.L. Chestnut>And George was not a blueblood, not from the country club. <v J.L. Chestnut>He just talked like that. But he was telling the truth about it. <v J.L. Chestnut>He was not ill at ease talking to Blacks. <v J.L. Chestnut>I've never been in his company where, where where George Wallace was like a fish out <v J.L. Chestnut>of water. It came naturally to him. <v J.L. Chestnut>And he could read the aspirations and feelings of Black people the same way he read them <v J.L. Chestnut>about whites. He knew what to say and what to do. <v J.L. Chestnut>And he, he just, developed and <v J.L. Chestnut>worked at it and developed that credibility. <v J.L. Chestnut>George Wallace could talk to a Black person
<v J.L. Chestnut>about his conversion, if you want to call it that. <v J.L. Chestnut>And how the Lord had spared <v J.L. Chestnut>him. And that he felt that the Lord had a reason <v J.L. Chestnut>for that and George Wallace would have tears in his eyes. <v J.L. Chestnut>And when you talking to an old-line Black missionary Baptist <v J.L. Chestnut>along those lines, you're really in his ballpark. <v J.L. Chestnut>But I would suggest to you that George Wallace's ballpark. <v J.L. Chestnut>It really is. He's a great actor, but there are some things he's not acting about. <v George Wallace>The extent of my own ability- <v Narrator>Wallace entered office intent on redeeming himself, his life had changed <v Narrator>since the shooting. His demeanor had mellowed. <v Narrator>His supporters call his term his most successful serve. <v Narrator>His critics pointed out the negative legacy of the Wallace years. <v George Wallace>On the people of Alabama. <v Narrator>Wallace's health problems were becoming more debilitating, and at times he appeared <v Narrator>confused and disoriented.
<v Narrator>The job of running state government fell to his aides. <v Narrator>As his fourth term drew to a close, the 67 year old governor was forced <v Narrator>to face the facts. His body could no longer take the punishment of <v Narrator>politics. <v George Wallace>And now I conclude by telling you, my heart will always belong to Alabama. <v George Wallace>I expect to be around, the Lord willing, a few more years. <v George Wallace>But as far as the governmental and political arena, my fellow Alabamians, I bid <v George Wallace>you a fond and affectionate farewell. <v Dr. William Barnard>The image that he gave the state, the black eye that he gave the state, which it had not <v Dr. William Barnard>really had before, the reputation for being a center of racial reaction and racial <v Dr. William Barnard>resistance. That black eye lingers today and in the long <v Dr. William Barnard>term is the negative legacy that he leaves to Alabama. <v J.L. Chestnut>I think that, and as history looks
<v J.L. Chestnut>at George Wallace, they will- It will probably treat him <v J.L. Chestnut>as, as an unwitting contributor <v J.L. Chestnut>to great progress in Alabama, but his <v J.L. Chestnut>number one legacy will be that stand in <v J.L. Chestnut>the schoolhouse door. I don't think that there's any practical way that <v J.L. Chestnut>he'll ever be able to rise above that. <v Taylor Hardin>I think when people look back 50 years from now, 20 years from now, they <v Taylor Hardin>will look not so much at the schoolhouse door as they will at that at <v Taylor Hardin>the schools themselves. <v Joe Reed>They will see him as an opponent <v Joe Reed>of desegregation as an opponent of justice <v Joe Reed>and fairness, I think I'd be their first reaction. <v Joe Reed>I think the second reaction will be that he was <v Joe Reed>a fellow who came along, fought it, lost the battle, and
<v Joe Reed>said I was wrong. <v Brandt Ayers>Yes, he's, he's going to be missed. <v Brandt Ayers>He's going to be missed because, because of his passion <v Brandt Ayers>which is is much more authentic <v Brandt Ayers>than this, than this distilled <v Brandt Ayers>85 proof vodka, <v Brandt Ayers>tasteless vodka that we get served up by the political consultants <v Brandt Ayers>on television. <v Brandt Ayers>He was real. <v Narrator>Governor, you've had an exciting and unusual political career. <v Narrator>If you had it to do over again, is there any one thing you <v Narrator>would do? <v George Wallace>Several things that I would do differently because I'm a human being on Earth and make <v George Wallace>mistakes, but there's no use to talking about the mistakes and ?inaudible? <v George Wallace>than just to use them as education for the future
<v George Wallace>and not make the same mistake twice, but- Oh, yes. <v George Wallace>if I call my life over, I'd live it a lot differently. <v George Wallace>Realize it when I leave this earth, my life is eternal. <v George Wallace>And I realize now more than ever, as I get older that, that nothing matters <v George Wallace>at what you do on this earth at the moment except what happened on the day that they have <v George Wallace>you, you pass away. And that's what you know, your spirit <v George Wallace>and your soul is everlasting. <v George Wallace>And it's conscious. <v George Wallace>And the most important thing to me has not happened yet. <v George Wallace>That's on the day of my mortal death. <v Narrator>And Governor, when you reached the pearly <v Narrator>gates, what sort of reception do you hope for? <v George Wallace>Well, I don't want to talk about that, except to say that I expect to be <v George Wallace>there. <v Narrator>Few politicians were his equal. <v Narrator>George Wallace was a master at getting elected.
<v Narrator>But once in office, his was an opportunity to be perhaps more than a politician. <v Narrator>George Wallace might have been a statesman, but he was not. <v Narrator>The Wallace legacy, myth or reality. <v Narrator>George Wallace is responsible for the myth. <v Narrator>We are responsible for the reality. <v Narrator>It was the voters, after all, who fueled his engine of ambition. <v Narrator>Perhaps he could not have been elected without his stand on segregation. <v Narrator>He could have been governor without standing in the schoolhouse door. <v Narrator>The schoolhouse door provided the limelight that George Wallace pursued <v Narrator>relentlessly, for better or worse, many times for the better, <v Narrator>but often for the worse. <v Narrator>I'm Nelson Benton. Good evening.
George Wallace: A Politician's Legacy
Episode Number
No. 2
Convenience or Conversion
Producing Organization
Alabama Public Television
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Episode Description
Episode 2, 'Convenience or Conversion,' focuses on Wallace's career from 1965 onward and details his runs for the presidency in the 1968, 1972, and 1976 elections. It also follows his personal life, the aftermath of his paralyzing shooting, and asks contemporaries to interpret and analyze Wallace's legacy.
Series Description
"The producers of 'George Wallace: A Politician's Legacy' had a challenging task. To construct a portrait of the life and times of a man who's been described as 'probably the last great American demagogue' they viewed about 600 hours of film and videotape and read hundreds of newspaper articles, personal papers, and scholarly studies of Wallace's career. "The result is a two-hour, two-part documentary which Pulitzer Prize winner Ray Jenkins, editorial page editor of the Baltimore Evening Sun, calls 'an outstanding piece of journalism and history.' "Producer Joe Terry and associate producer Camille Elebash examine Wallace's legacy through videotape interviews with more than 45 people who know him best -- friends, foes, allies, and the journalists who covered his career. The interviews are used with historic and dramatic film clips to create a vivid profile of a gifted politician who developed an extremely loyal national following by distilling the hopes and fears of middle class America. "The late Nelson Benton, veteran CBS reporter, is the host of the program. The documentary includes excerpts of his 1986 interview with Wallace, perhaps the most detailed interview Wallace has granted in recent years."--1988 Peabody Awards entry form.
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Producing Organization: Alabama Public Television
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-bf431cfd353 (Filename)
Format: U-matic
Duration: 1:00:00
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Chicago: “George Wallace: A Politician's Legacy; No. 2; Convenience or Conversion,” 1988, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 27, 2022,
MLA: “George Wallace: A Politician's Legacy; No. 2; Convenience or Conversion.” 1988. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 27, 2022. <>.
APA: George Wallace: A Politician's Legacy; No. 2; Convenience or Conversion. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from