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Dan Carter, author, on
Wallace's early political ambition

Dan Carter Q: Talk about George Wallace's roots.

A: Wallace comes from a not well-to-do but a respectable middle class family in Alabama in Barbour County. His grandfather was a doctor, well-respected, ran a drugstore, small landowner, but by the time George Wallace is born, the family, like so many in the South, has fallen on hard times. His father is something of a ne'er do well, who despite his support from his father, simply wasn't able to make it. And so, while Wallace wasn't part of a desperate poor, he was poor. And in Barbour County in the 1930s, there wasn't much of a way out of that place, if you had ambition, except in politics. You didn't have business connections, you didn't have economic connections, you certainly weren't going to get into the best law firms in Mobile, or Montgomery, or Birmingham, and this was a county that had five governors. It was a county in which politics permeated everything. His grandfather had been in politics, his father. Wallace from the time he was 13 years old, was obsessed -- is not too strong a word -- with the political process; he was out running a local campaign for a gubernatorial candidate when he was 14. He became a page in the Alabama state senate, went around, campaigned on his own, lived in a boarding house on his own in Montgomery during this period. And he lived politics, he ate politics, he absorbed it. He was driving one of the most influential senators in the Black Belt around when he was 15, scarcely able to look over the steering wheel of this senator's Buick. But, he was exhilarated by it. This is what he wanted to do, and he said -- in fact, from the time that he got to the state capitol, when he was 14 years old, he said -- "I knew I was going to be Governor." He stood in the spot where Jefferson Davis had taken the oath of office as the first president of the Confederacy and as he said, swore to himself, "I'm going to be Governor someday."

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