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Dan Carter, author, on
1958 Gubernatorial race

Dan Carter Q:What happens in '58? What does Wallace learn?

A: Even when George Wallace adopts a segregationist position, as he does very strongly in the mid-1950s, he still somehow feels that he can be a moderate segregationist. So that when he runs for governor in 1958, his first big race. He's been a judge and he's established himself as hard, tough against the federal government. He runs for governor, however, against John Patterson, who's the Attorney General in Alabama. He tries to run as a responsible segregationist. He speaks against the Klan for example, and the Klan openly backed Patterson during that race. He talks about the necessity for maintaining law and order, for fighting for segregation within the law, and not breaking the law. And he tries to continue the same themes that have carried Folsom to victory in two elections, and that is, good roads, good schools, improved state services for the people of Alabama. And he loses. And although there are many factors involved in Wallace's loss in 1958, the one clear lesson that he draws from it -- and it's one that his opponent agreed with him on -- that race was what ultimately decided the election of 1958, that Wallace was perceived as being soft on integration, that he was perceived as being a straddler, in the middle of the road, and there was no place for a moderate in 1958. At least that's how Wallace saw it. And so, the night that he lost that race, he sat outside the hotel -- his headquarters hotel in Montgomery -- with some of his friends, and they went over "why did we lose?" -- these different factors. And he said, "Boys, we can talk about this all we want to; we know why I lost. I lost because John Patterson took a tough line on this race business." "John Patterson," he said, "outniggered me, and I'm never going to be outniggered again."

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