Q:When was the first time you encountered George Wallace?
A:I knew him when he was the circuit judge, so when I moved back to Barbour County after finishing law school, I had my law office in Barbour County. And so did he, though we had two courthouses in the county. He was in Clayton, the county seat, and I was over in Eufaula, over on the Chattahoochee River there. And I immediately ran for district attorney, which was called circuit solicitor back then. So he was the judge in the court, and I was the prosecutor, while he sat in judgment. We never got along because he was extremely liberal on the bench and he really didn't want the people in prison. I was very conservative. I didn't like that, so we were in constant clashes throughout that period of time. But in 1958, then we got to know one another rather well because that's when he was in the governor's race then. And it was a race essentially [between] he and Governor Patterson. And I supported Governor Patterson because George Wallace had ruled against me some years earlier in a case, where the federal government was attempting to register, illegally, black voters in mass. And that was brought to my attention as the DA, and I brought it to the judge's attention. And he said, though, "What do you want to do, Seymore?" I said, "Well, we can call a grand jury and indict him." He said, "Well, that's what we should do with the son-of-a-bitches is doing that. But, instead, I tell you what you do, Seymore. You file a petition, and I'll enjoin them from illegally registering those nigger voters, and I'll rule with you." So I filed my petition and we were in court. After I presented the case, the evidence I sat down, and the judge ruled against me. And that upset the white people very badly. They had crowded into the courthouse and all spilled out into the hallways, waiting for that ruling. And so they were very angry with George Wallace. So, when he ran for governor, I wondered why he had done that. But, of course, I knew then, as I know now, that that was for the purpose of being sure that he got the liberal vote -- the Jim Folsom vote -- because Jim Folsom couldn't run to succeed himself at that time. So, Wallace wanted to be sure that he inherited that vote, which he did. But it was a much smaller black vote than he anticipated. And John Patterson won the race.
previous | back to Interview Transcripts | next