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David McCullough, Series Host: Hello and welcome to The American Experience, I'm David McCullough. We continue with the second and concluding part of George Wallace.
The life of Governor George Wallace of Alabama is a modern-day tragedy of Shakespearean sweep and complexity. As we have seen, a respected liberal judge, sees racism as the salvation for his stalled political career. He grabs the chance and swept to prominence, "plays many parts" of profound consequence.
"Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever" was the rallying cry. Elected governor in 1962, Wallace was soon at center stage in the national drama of civil rights, playing to the crowds, playing to the cameras, "standing in the schoolhouse door," as if to stop two black students from entering.
A storm of racial violence followed in Alabama. The jeering mobs, the fire hoses and dogs as seen on television, the cold-blooded murder of Sunday school children, the police brutality of "Bloody Sunday" at Selma were seared forever on the nation's memory.
But along with the corruption of the Wallace administration came popular programs for education, and help for the poor, black and white. When unable to run for another term, because of an Alabama law, Wallace saw that his wife was elected in his place.
By the time of her death from cancer, he had launched his first bid for the presidency, which is the point where we continue.
Through the whole course of Wallace's story, questions keep arising, up to and including the last tormented years, when he asked for forgiveness. Was it redemption he was seeking? Or re-election.
George Wallace, Settin' the Woods on Fire, Part II.
PEGGY KENNEDY: We were at dinner one night and ah we were just talking about Politics and things that were important in life and he said there are two things that were most important in life. Thats money and power, and I dont care for money.
He loved power.
NARR: George Corley Wallace, a man who started out battling for the poor regardless of color. Then found the key to power in the outstretched hands of racism.
NARR: A man who gave voice to the hopes and fears of millions of Americans only to be gunned down in his prime.
NARR: A man who turned to the very same people he had scorned and asked for their forgiveness. George Corley Wallace, haunted by his past foreshadowing his country's future.
BRAGG: People down here still say what if? What if one of the bullets had been just a little bit over to one side, he'd still been walkin and standin and not in constant pain. You know, what if?
NARR: Five weeks after the death of his wife Lurleen, George Wallace resumed his campaign for president. He wished that he "could have waited a little longer," he said. But Wallace was being overtaken by the rush of events. Robert Kennedy had been assassinated just the week before. Martin Luther King stuck down only months earlier. Cities in flames, campus protests, the war in Vietnam. From out of the chaos the Nation would emerge fundamentally change. The Liberal impulse that had dominated politics since the New Deal would give away to a new conservatism .
In 1968 the man in the eye of the storm who set the agenda , law and order, the danger of big government and the minds of many the politics of race was the third party candidate for President hoping to deadlock the election.
Wallace Political Advertisement: Look America, take a good look. This was done by anarchists, revolutionaries, the Molotov cocktail set. Ask yourself why are the anti-American, anti-God anarchists also violently anti-Wallace. Want to get rid of them? Then dont waste your vote on those that encourage the sit-ins and illegal marches. Vote for a law-abiding, God-fearing America. It takes courage. Wallace has it, do you?
Murphree: The Negro, uh, no doubt about it, has got out of hand. And I think Wallace will enforce law and order. And, uh, this is one thing that the people are concerned about. Its dangerous for people to even leave their doors unlocked, you have to lock your doors.
GEORGE WALLACE: And it is a sad day in our country that you cannot walk even in your neighborhoods at night or even in the daytime because both national parties, in the last number of years, have kow-towed to every group of anarchists that have roamed the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles and throughout the country. And now they have created themselves a Frankenstein monster and the chickens are coming home to roost all over this country.
LEWIS: I think he knew very well in his very heart and soul what he was doing. Governor Wallace was a cold political opportunist and he used the question of race to fan the flames of division in order to seek a political goal.
TURNIPSEED: Race and being opposed to the civil rights movement and all it meant was the very heart and soul of the Wallace campaign. I mean, thats what it was all about. And I remember I was in a little town in south central Massachusetts called Webster. I went to the Polish-American Club And the manager says, "Well," says, "when Governor Wallace is elected president," he said, "hes going to line up all these niggers and shoot them, isnt he?" And I said, "Oh hell, no." You know, I was being honest with him. I said, "Hes just worried about agitators and things like that." But this guy was dead serious.
Interviewers question [off camera]: What do you think is the biggest attraction that Wallace has?
Working man: Uh, common sense and easy-to-understand language. He can talk to the American public without making a complicated situation out of anything.
BUCHANAN: Wallaces great trait was to cut through the political malarkey and to speak clearly and succinctly in language people could understand. I remember in 1968, we were, Nixon was saying, you know, using diplomatic, political and other skills, "We will end the war and win the peace in Vietnam," and we had this formulation. Wallace got up there and said, "Win the war, or get out," which is in retrospect, exactly what we should have done. One, or the other. And people understood that.
GEORGE WALLACE: Weve got some professors in this part of the country who are today calling for communist victory. And they say thats free speech. But they mean free speech only if you let them speak. They dont want anybody else to speak. And I tell you--
TURNIPSEED: Governor Wallace used to just love to use the long-haired hippie agitators, the, the folks who were out in the front lines of the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement.
GEORGE WALLACE: I love you, too. I sure do. [laughter] Oh, I thought you were a she, youre a he. Oh my goodness.
TURNIPSEED: The folks that he felt like his constituency uh, uh, just really disliked the most, you know.
GEORGE WALLACE: And when he was in California, a group of anarchists lay down in front of his automobile, and threatened his personal safety, the president of the United States! Well, I want to tell you that if you elect me the president and I go to California or I come to Arkansas and some of them lie down in front of my automobile, it will be the last one theyll ever want to lie down in front of.
Demonstrators chant: Wallace is a pig! Wallace is a pig!
Black & white demonstrators: Wallace is a pig, ooh-ah! Wallace is a pig, ooh-ah!
GEORGE WALLACE: I want to say again what I said in the beginning. You fellas better have your day now because youre through later on, I can tell you that much.
TRAMMELL: Uh, that would be the kind of pictures that we would want.
GEORGE WALLACE: Well, just keep on, you get me a million votes every time you show up, Ill tell you that much.
TRAMMELL: When that would be on television, and particularly back home in the South.
GEORGE WALLACE: Come up here after Ive completed my speech and Ill autograph your sandals for you.
TRAMMELL: People would just, want to just leave the cotton fields early in the afternoon and get to the television and send whatever dollars they had, right into the campaign headquarters. And by doing that, we were able to finance the campaign.
Demonstrators: Wallace go home! Wallace go home!
GEORGE WALLACE: Why dont you young punks get out of the auditorium?
GEORGE WALLACE whispers (to someone off camera in audience): Whatd you say? You go to hell, you son of a bitch.
GEORGE WALLACE: And I tell you what, I may not teach you any politics if youll listen but Ill teach you some good manners. Ill teach you some good manners. Ill teach you some good manners.
George Wallace supporters: We want Wallace! We want Wallace!
INGRAM: He was one of the few candidates that I, in my experience, that people would literally fight you over. They would, they would hit you with their fist. I mean, it-- the feelings were intense.
Wallace supporter: You shut up! You rotten finks!
Wallace supporter: You ought to take them people over there and put them in a bunch of cages and ship them off in a ship and dump them.
INGRAM: Uh, he brought that-- he was himself the boxer, the fighter.
JONES: Well, if youve ever seen George Wallace on the stump, you know that the fists are swinging and sometimes its open hands but most of the time, its that fist swinging to stress a point. And he was very good at it.
GEORGE WALLACE: Theyve never paid any attention to anything that the people of your state or my state did or said in the past. They ignored us and looked down their nose at us and called us everything under the sun. And Im sick and tired of it and I resent it because I feel the people of our region are just as intelligent and refined and cultured as the people of any region of the United States or the entire world. And thats no reflection of upon the people of any other section of our country.
CARTER: Day after day, white Southerners looked at the television and what did they see? They saw a kind of morality play in which there were the heroic, the civil rights activists, and these horrific bestial, violent white Southerners. And now you have George Wallace, standing up, standing up for America, he says, but really standing up for white Southerners.
GEORGE WALLACE: Yes, theyve looked down their nose at you and me a long time. Theyve called us rednecks -- the Republicans and the Democrats. Well, were going to show there sure are a lot of rednecks in this country.
CARTER: And in that sense, he becomes the champion of the white South. It didnt matter that he loses. He loses in 63 against the Kennedys. He loses again in, uh, in virtually every confrontation he has. But white Southerners are used to that since the Civil War. Theyve always lost. What is important is not, so much winning as it is being a fighter, standing up, defending your rights, showing how tough you are and, and in a sense, getting Americans to respect you.
GEORGE WALLACE: And in school lunchrooms throughout the country where public funds are involved theyve held that as a result of this decision that little children cannot even bow their heads and say, "God is great, God is good." It violates the Constitution, they say. Well, whoever heard of any such interpretation of the Constitution of our country? Those are the things that the average man in this country is sick and tired of.
BUCHANAN: There was a tremendous counter revolution to what the Supreme Court was doing in the 50s and early 60s with its decisions on school prayer, and its decisions on integration, and its decisions later on, on abortion and things like that. And what Governor Wallace did, Governor Wallace was the first to hit these directly head-on to pick up on these issues and address these concerns of middle America And he became really the tribune of middle America, the tribune of the people.
TRAMMELL: The people that really believed in Wallace were the people that he would term as the rednecks, the wool hats, the hayseed, the footlog walkers, the square dancers, the guitar pickers. They did believe that, uh, somewhere out of the ranks of the poor people, that, uh, some person would ultimately rise and represent their thoughts, their ideas, and their wants and their wishes. And George Wallace was the man.
TURNIPSEED: Hed say "You ever heard of Mountain Brook, Alabama?" And theyd say, "No, Geor-- Governor, tell us about it." And he said, "Well, Mountain Brook is an all lily-white town. Its over across the mountain from Birmingham. You know, Birmingham, as you know, has got all the steel mills and all. And, and you got the blue collar working class people there and, of course, theyre faced with their schools, their kids being bussed from here there to yonder to kingdom come to integrate the schools." And he says, "But you take the fellows, that, that-- the executives of the mills, the big shots of the mills, they get into air-conditioned Cadillacs and their chauffeurs drive on back up to Mountain Brook where the average home is worth about $300,000 a piece and some of the homes have 15 bathrooms in em." [laughs] And he says, "And they drive up there and they sit up there at the Country Club, the Mountain Brook Country Club, and they got these little martinis and they hold their little fingers up in the air, and they sip on the martinis. And you know what they say? Oh, weve got to be progressive, weve got to have some of this integration, says, its good. You know, to bus your children from here to there to kingdom come and back again and guess where their children go to school? To all-white private schools up in Mountain Brook."
CARTER: And George Wallace forces Americans, uh, to look at the, the arguments that he has, simply because of the political power that he gradually accumulates. As the electorate moves up from 8% to 10% to finally by October of 1968, about 22, 23% of the American voters say they support George Wallace for president.
NARR: The election for president was only a month away. But George Wallaces popularity was about to be dealt a staggering blow.
TRAMMELL: George Wallace said, "Seymore, Im gonna tell you who we need as a vice-presidential running mate. That is General Curtis LeMay. Because just think, Seymore, we can get all of the veterans voting for us."
NARR: A former Air Force Chief of Staff, General LeMay was a favorite of the political right. But his blunt manner especially on the subject of nuclear warfare had earned him a reputation as a "loose cannon." With the outspoken general at his side, George Wallace introduced to the national press his choice for vice president.
GEORGE WALLACE: General LeMay spent 37 years in the service of his country. One of the outstanding characteristics that I admire greatly is his willingness to speak his mind.
JONES: Well, about the first or second question out of the box was Jack Nelson, who represented the "LA Times."
NELSON: Uh, I asked General LeMay about his statements concerning dropping the H-bomb, you know, in a, in a war.
NARR: Anticipating such questions from the press and fearing a potential gaff, Wallaces staff had carefully prepared LeMay.
JONES: We spent the night with LeMay, telling him, "Stay off of nuclear warfare and those type of things." If you get asked a question like that, fluff it off and say, "That has nothing to do with George Wallace and me running for president and vice president."
NARR: But the trait Wallace and LeMay shared of plain-speaking was about to go nuclear.
Reporter [off camera]: As a potential vice-president, what would be your policy in the employment of nuclear weapons?
LeMay: Well, we seem to have a-- uh, Ill take the nuclear weapons section first. We seem to have a phobia about nuclear weapons.
TURNIPSEED: He was drawn into a long conversation about nuclear weaponry and the tests that had been done with the hydrogen bombs out in the South Pacific and so forth.
LeMay: The rats were supposed to be vaporized inside of this fireball. But, uh, the rats out there are bigger, fatter and healthier than they ever were before.
TURNIPSEED: And Governor Wallace was standing over on the side, kind of looking, and just kind of shrinking up, you could tell he wanted to get out of there.
LeMay: I dont believe the world will end if we explode a nuclear weapon. But, on the other hand, I dont want to explode one unless we have to. As a matter of fact, I dont want to stick a rusty knife into anybodys belly until I have to, either.
JONES: Wallace was so mad, and he would not let me -- "he" being Wallace -- would not let me stop the durn news conference.
NELSON: The governor, uh, tried to pull him away and, uh, said, "I know you folks, I know you out there from the Los Angeles Times, and the general dont know how to handle you."
GEORGE WALLACE: Uh, so, Mr. Nelson he hasnt said anything about using nuclear weapons. And, uh
[Reporters fire off questions, "Governor, give us the peace sign."]
JONES: I, I could have got it stopped and moved on, but Wallace would not let me do it.
GEORGE WALLACE: Let General LeMay answer. General LeMay would be glad to answer your question.
NELSON: And the General, he decided that he was not gonna be denied his opportunity in the sun. And so, uh, you know he continued to answer a couple of questions.
LEMAY: If I found it necessary, I would use anything that we could dream up. Anything that we could dream up, including nuclear weapons, if it was necessary.
Reporter [off camera]: Is it possible to win a nuclear war, general?
Aide: General, weve got to go.
LEMAY: No, Ill answer that. I dont think its possible for anybody to win--
NELSON: I mean it was a hilarious situation in a way. But it was also kind of devastating. By the time that all of the networks ran it that evening as the lead on their program, and all the papers the next morning had the headlines on page one, uh, hed began to go down in the polls.
JONES: I dont, uh, blame Nelson. If Id been sitting out there, and Ive reported a little bit in my life, I, I may have asked the same question. It was funny, really, when it was all over, a year or so later. Wasnt very funny that day.
NARR: The press conference earned Wallace and LeMay the nickname the "Bombsey Twins." Voters who had been cautiously leaning toward Wallace began slipping away.
[Crowd chanting "Wallace must go!" repeatedly]
NARR: In the end, Richard Nixon -- and not George Wallace -- would become the nations 37th President.
GEORGE WALLACE: Great reception. Great reception.
NARR: But Wallace -- who had received over 10 million votes and carried five Southern states -- had come close to achieving his real goal deadlocking the election. With a shift of less than one percent of the vote in just two more states -- he would have had enough electoral votes to throw the election into the House of Representatives. Wallace would have been the kingmaker -- delivering the presidency to the party most willing to embrace his issues.
[Wallace Supporters: We want Wallace!]
NARR : Those issues -- and the millions of Americans who had supported him -- were not about to go away.
[Wallace Supporters: We want Wallace!]
CARTER: In 1968, uh, it is true that the heart of his support remains in the South. But even outside the South a large minority supports George Wallace. And what I think it, it, it represents is this tectonic shift in American politics that takes place in the 1960s. Race riots, the backlash against Great Society programs, uh, the divisions that are exposed by the war in Vietnam. In a sense, American politics comes unwound in the 1960s. Whether its through intuition or luck or simply being in the right place at the right time, George Wallace always seems to anticipate this.
GEORGE WALLACE: If youll sit down, Ill drown that crowd out. If youll just sit down, Ill drown em out. [cheers] All he needs is a good haircut. If hell go to the barbershop, I think they can cure him.
CARTER: Hes the first one in many cases to raise these issues, to speak bluntly, frankly. That appeals to a large minority and its always a minority, but a large minority of Americans who finally say, "We have a politician whos not going to give us some mealy-mouth, on the one hand and on the other, but hes going to tell it like it is. Even if its offensive to some people, so what?
Young man: Give em hell, George! Give em hell! Give em hell, George!
NARR: After the 1968 defeat, George Wallace returned to Montgomery, Alabama, to his modest, suburban home. He was now a single parent, raising his younger children, Peggy, George Jr. and Lee. But the widower kept a busy schedule. He traveled, raised money, and looked toward the 1972 presidential race.
Also, a new love entered his life, someone raised in politics, who easily shared the spotlight and even drew some of her own. She was Big Jim Folsoms niece, a former beauty queen, the recently divorced Cornelia Ellis Snively.
GREENHAW: First of all, Cornelia was a beautiful woman. She was a knockout. She had raven-colored hair, she could fill out a pair of blue jeans. I mean, she would turn a head. And she turned George Wallaces. He always liked the looks of a good-looking woman. And she was younger, and Im sure she came on strong to George Wallace. And he, uh, and he was smitten with her.
CORNELIA.WALLACE: There was a lot of physical attraction, very passionate kind of love between us. I had known him all my life. And, uh, I didnt really think he was attractive then -- when I was younger, but [laughs] uh, at the time I saw him and got reacquainted with him when I was not a married person and a single person. He was very attractive to me then. Uh, and I guess I was very attractive to him.
NARR: The courtship with Cornelia remained discreet -- while Wallace planned his next (political) move. Money continued to trickle into his national election headquarters in Montgomery. And he still had popularity. A Gallup poll of America's most admired men showed George Wallace in seventh place -- just ahead of the Pope. But one fact was clear to Wallace and observers alike: If he didnt retake the Alabama governors office, he'd lose his political base and his national aspirations would be over.
PAUL HARVEY: Hello, Americans. I am Paul Harvey. George Wallace is fighting this time for his political life, you know. He must run for governor again or be relegated to political oblivion. And yet, you know, despite his sustained popularity with the electorate running for governor is not quite as simple as it sounds. He must run against his own political protégé, the now popular Governor Albert Brewer. Inevitably, this is going to have to be a no-holds barred campaign, involving divided insiders and influenced by prominent, interested outsiders.
NARR: Wallaces opponent, Governor Albert Brewer, was stronger than ever. Alabama law now allowed him to run for a second consecutive term. And he soon had a secret advantage, the financial support of the president of the United States.
NARR: Wallace had come close to costing Richard Nixon the election in 1968 -- and the president was not going to let it happen again. Red Blount, a Nixon cabinet member from Alabama, thought Brewer could beat Wallace and drive him out of presidential politics. All Brewer needed, Blount said, was a little help from his friends.
EHRLICHMAN: There came a time when the president received Red Blount and me to discuss the Wallace situation. Red carried a message from Governor Brewer, uh, the effect of which was that hed be willing to run, given the proper inducements. Well, that was an easy call for the president. He said, "By all means, give him whatever inducements he needs."
NARR: Nixon ultimately provided some $400,000, in secret cash payments, nearly a third of Brewers campaign budget.
INGRAM: Criticized beyond belief after the fact, but to this day and to my death, I will defend it as one of the cleanest contributions you could get. They didn't want a job. They didn't want a contract. They didn't want, uh, uh, want anything. All they wanted was to beat Wallace. What can you do? What's wrong with that?
NARR: The Nixons plan seemed to be working. The incumbent Brewer, a moderate, was gaining momentum and had the support of Alabamas black electorate. It seemed George Wallaces time had passed.
PAUL HARVEY: Alright. Wallace, pointing to national politicians in publications out to get me, protesting that George Wallace has nobody for him but the people. is right now outgunned -- but hes not yet out maneuvered.
TURNIPSEED: I never will forget, we had a meeting of all the faithful, all the staff and so forth, and the governor addresses everybody, and says, "Look, we got to do what weve got to do." Weve got to play, he didnt say the race card, but it was obvious what, what he wanted. And, and he says, we gotta just go all out on this issue.
INGRAM: We didn't think they could, I-- we were in the-- living in the dream world of thinking maybe this issue had kind of-- it's 1970. They've seen the diffic-- the troubles, the tragedies for both in large degree by Wallace's, uh, stand. Uh, maybe times have changed. But the campaign began and it was absolutely like nothing this state had ever seen.
Reporter: What about what you say about your opponent?
GEORGE WALLACE: I say nothing about my opponent.
Reporter: How about your supporters?
GEORGE WALLACE: I dont know what my supporters say.
INGRAM: They had smear sheets saying that Brewer was a homosexual. His wife was a drunk. One daughter was pregnant by a black. It was just, uh, terrifying --
Reporter: Governor, uh, what do you know about these obviously doctored photographs showing Governor Brewer with Elijah Mohammed and, uh, Cassius Clay or Mohammed Ali?
GEORGE WALLACE: Thank you all for being so good to us. Honey, glad to see ya.
INGRAM: On election day, I'm sitting in my office, and I got a call from North Alabama from a campaign worker who says, "The Wallace people are just going up and down the line saying, Remember you're white, remember you're white." He said, "What can I say? How can I rebut that?" And I said, "You can't. There ain't nothing you can say." And it made the difference.
GEORGE WALLACE: Theres no reason to let any one group call all the shots in this state. And you know the militant black bloc vote in this state if they take over-- its going to control politics for the next 50 years in Alabama and I know you are not going to let that happen.
TURNIPSEED: And I guess that meant we were doing what we had to do, but he won the race. He became the governor.
Announcer: We present to you, the next governor of Alabama, the Governor George C. Wallace!!!
GEORGE WALLACE: If, if, if thing-- if things were not running as good as they are running now and I was running behind, I could probably tell you national newsmen that I wouldnt have you to kick around anymore.
NARR: The joke was at Richard Nixons expense, a play on his famous quote in defeat from 1962, "You wont have Nixon to kick around anymore." The presidents attempt to sway the election had failed.. But the White House had another plan. The I.R.S. had already launched an investigation of George Wallace and some of his close supporters.
NARR: George Wallace returned to power on January 18th, 1971. Two weeks earlier, he had married Cornelia. After the bitter campaign based on race, Wallace announced to the national press that hed always been a moderate and no longer believed in racial segregation. He was courting the black vote hes so recently despised, trying to build a new image as a presidential candidate. And his new wife was judged a strong political asset.
JENKINS: We got the impression that, uh, this whole thing was sort of, uh, the way that, uh, Henry the Eighth might have chosen a wife, or, uh, or, uh, Kennedy may have chosen a running mate or something like this. It was a-- there were political calculations that went into it.
KENNEDY: My father brightened up a lot when he married Cornelia, and I, I-- she was so good for him. She would make him do things, uh. Uh, one Christmas, she made him be Santa Claus, and I have some wonderful pictures of that. And
she was just good at, at, at really bringing out the best in my father. I really, really think she was.
NARR: Many gave credit to Cornelia for a new, more sophisticated Wallace style.
TURNIPSEED: She was a very stylish person, she used to kid around and say, "Were going to couth him up a little bit, he was a little uncouth."
CORNELIA WALLACE: George had not changed a lot since the first time I remember seeing him. He had, had greasy slicked back hair [laughs] and he had the typical, uh, either black or dark navy blue politicians suit for the legislature. They all dressed that way. We washed his hair and used a little hair spray on his hair at times, and then I began to find better looking suits for him and suits that were stylish. He sort of began, uh, to look like the good, uh, ice cream boy in the white suit that everybody loved.
JENKINS: They did make a very stylish and interesting couple, and, and they became, to, to some extent, a kind of uh, Southern, uh, dogpatch version of Camelot, you know, uh, of, uh, Jack and Jackie, instead George and Cornelia.
NARR: Cornelia accompanied George on many of his trips, including preparations for the run for president in 1972.
CORNELIA WALLACE: We went to a meeting in Memphis, Tennessee of, uh, I guess, what was supposed to be left of his third party movement. And the -- there was a governor from, uh, Mississippi at that time who was a firebrand, got up and gave a roaring racist speech to fire up these third party, uh, people who were there. Well, it, it, wo-- there were just a very small crowd of men and they didnt look really bright or intelligent or just like nice, ha -- happy ordinary people. And, uh, when we started on our trip back home, I said, "George," I said, "is that all you have to run with on a third party movement? Is that your party and all you have?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Well, honey, you better stay at home, [laughs] cause youre not going to make it with that group." And, uh, I mean, I assume the idea was to get elected president.
NARR: There were other reasons to reconsider the third party movement. Seymore Trammell, who had controlled Wallace campaign finances for years, had begun cooperating with the I.R.S. Its investigation was closing in on Georges brother, Gerald.
TURNIPSEED: Gerald was a kind guy, a nice guy, and an interesting guy. And I dont think he really had any kind of racist feelings about anything. In fact, he used to tell me, said, "Tom, I dont care about civil rights or this stuff George talks about one way or another." He said, "I like the practical part of politics." [laughs]
GREENHAW: When George became governor, Gerald seemed to just want to-- he, he used, started using the office first day. And he put the word out all over the country that to do business in Alabama, with the state of Alabama, you had to go through Gerald Wallace.
NARR: In George Wallaces first term as governor of Alabama, Geralds reported income had jumped 400%, much of it from state contractors.
"Gerald was so crooked," his brother Jack once joked, "that when he dies, theyre going to have to screw him into the ground."
NARR: But in the early 1970s, Geralds business deals seemed to have caught up with him.
TURNIPSEED: Gerald had told me, I was the national campaign director at the time, he came by the office and he looked kind of sad. And I said, "Sag," thats what we called him, "Sag," cause he kind of sagged when he walked, [laughs] you know, he didnt have very good posture. And I said, "Whats wrong, Sag? Man, you look sick." And he said, "Well," said, "Im worried -- Im afraid they got me Tom, this IRS thing." You know, they gotten all my books and Im really worried about it and all about paying taxes.
TURNIPSEED: Gosh, I was right working in Texas. I read in the paper where, when President Nixon came down to dedicate some kind of waterway Gerald had, had met with some of the Nixon people, you know. It was in the paper.
NARR: Four days after Nixon's trip to Alabama in May 1971, Washington columnists reported that a "tenuous line of communication" had been opened between Nixon and Wallace. Seven months later, the Justice Department dropped its investigation of the Wallaces.
And George Wallace announced he would run as a Democrat and not as a third party candidate.
CARTER: George Wallace announces that hes going to run as a Democrat, not as a third party candidate. And its the third party candidacy thats the threat to Nixon. So, in a sense Nixon gets what he wants. Is it a coincidence that a couple of days after this happens, the Justice Department announces that its not going to continue its investigation against Governor Wallace or against his brother? Well, we still dont know the answer to that question. But it certainly raised, for a number of people at the time, disturbing questions about whether a deal had been made.
NARR: Only one person went to jail as a result of the I.R.S. investigation. By cooperating, Seymore Trammell had implicated himself. He was convicted of income tax evasion and sentenced to four years in federal prison.
NARR: In March of 1972, a young man living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, took the first step of a fateful journey. "Now I start my diary," Arthur Bremer wrote, "of my personal plot to kill by pistol either Richard Nixon or George Wallace."
CARTER: From uh, his earliest, pretty sad childhood, Arthur Bremer was this pathetic loner, isolated uh, he had no friends. He grew up, went to Milwaukee primary, secondary school. Uh, was always considered to be -- as people said -- weird, a weird individual who clearly was probably mentally ill.
NARR: "No one ever noticed me nor took interest in me as an individual with the need to receive or give love. In junior high school, I was an object of pure ridicule for my dress, withdrawal, and asocial manner." Dozens of times, I saw individuals laugh and smile more in ten to fifteen minutes than I did in all my life up to then."
CARTER: In his life, I think a turning point was when he had his first crush on a girlfriend. And, uh, at first she was interested, and then, when she turned him aside, then he became obsessed with this, with somehow getting her to notice him. And he did all kinds of strange things.
Arthur Bremers neighbor: In January, he was, when he had long hair, and then he went to extremes and he shaved it off, and he was, he shaved it completely bald.
Reporter: You mean he shaved his hair which was long at one time, until he was completely bald?
CARTER: He wanted her to notice him, and to a, he became obsessed with making a name for himself.
NARR: "Life has only been an enemy to me. I will destroy my enemy when I destroy myself. But I want to take part of this country that made me with me."
CARTER: Well, how are you going to make a name for yourself? I mean, this is part-time busboy, a janitor. Uh, he decided to kill somebody.
NARR: "Whats a good title for this manuscript? A month in the life of nobody in particular." George Wallaces 1972 run for the presidency began with the Democratic primary in Florida. He quickly locked onto an issue that was dividing the nation -- the recent Supreme Court decisions affirming the use of busing to desegregate schools.
GEORGE WALLACE: This matter that theyve come up with of busing little children to achieve racial balance is the most asinine, atrocious, callous thing Ive ever heard of in the United States.
GEORGE WALLACE: I believe that if I win the Florida primary, that Mr. Nixon himself will step in and stop the busing of school children throughout the United States.
And Ill bet you that when he was in Red China, he and Mao Tse Tung talked more about busing than anything else. If you want to know--
NARR: George Wallace carried every county in the state of Florida.
GEORGE WALLACE: The average citizen has spoken in the state of Florida. They are going to speak throughout the United States. Im a serious candidate for the presidency on the Democratic ticket in the primaries. And it looks like were going to Miami with the greatest number of delegates. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. [cheers]
CORNELIA WALLACE: The Florida primary sent him out of there with a, just like on a rocket for the 1972 presidential elections.
NARR: Less than forty-eight hours after Wallaces victory, President Nixon addressed the nation.
Nixon: I am sending a special message to the Congress tomorrow. I shall propose special legislation that will cause an immediate halt to all new busing orders by a federal court. A moratorium on new busing.
NARR: On March 23rd, George Wallace held a rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Arthur Bremer was there. "I figured Wallace would be dead or dying now if I wanted it so. After he gave the liberals hell, he stood in the open and waved and smiled."
"The audience stood, some turned to leave, some to move in for a closer view. I moved in and for the first time, saw his face. He looked heavily wrinkled and ugly.
That would have been it."
JENKINS: I had sort of expected this sort of thing to happen sooner or later. Because when you heat up the, the political, uh, environment to the extent that Wallace does, youre going to, uh, bring a lot of kooks out of the woodwork.
WALLACE, JR: He always had told me that he realized he might be shot running for president. That was very real to him. And he said, "I, I realized that might happen." But he always believed it would be a head injury and that he would die.
NARR: "May 13, 1972. Arrived at Dearborn Youth Center at 15 after six. The hall was packed."
CHESTNUT: You just cant go around s-- preaching hatred, however you cloak it, however you dress it up, and somehow or another, it will not come back to bite you.
NARR: "Two 15-year old girls had gotten in front of me. Their faces were one inch from the glass that would shatter with a blunt nosed bullet. They were sure to be blinded and disfigured. I let Wallace go only to spare those two stupid, innocent delighted kids. We pounded on the window together at the governor. Thered be other times."
GEORGE WALLACE: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
NARR: The momentum from Wallaces Florida win had continued to grow. He took a strong second in Wisconsin after only eight days of campaigning.
GEORGE WALLACE: Weve come a long way from 8 years ago when, uh, the Democratic candidate called me something evil because I advocated that which he advocates now. And I think by the time we get to November, some of the leadership is going to be saying, you know, I just didnt understand Wallace. Hes really a better fellow than I thought. I really didnt know him so well.
NARR: Next was another strong second in Pennsylvania. Higher poll numbers. And overflowing crowds. Soon, the press predicted Wallace victories in some of the upcoming elections. On the morning of May 15th, Wallace departed for his last day of campaigning -- in the Maryland primary.
CORNELIA WALLACE: When we left the governors mansion that day, my husband had already started talking about-- he was nervous, he was just extremely nervous. He just kept saying, "I dont think Im going to go. "I just dont think Im going to make this trip." He said, "One more day of campaigning is not going to make any difference. If I havent won it now, Ill, I cant win it with one day of campaigning."
NARR: Wallace set aside his concerns and headed north for two final rallies. At the first rally, a news cameraman focused on a familiar figure -- dressed in red-white-and-blue. Arthur Bremer, standing close to the stage, asked one of the men guarding Wallace -- "Could you get George to come down and shake hands with me? But Wallace never mixed with the mostly hostile crowd. Instead, he and his entourage pushed on to Laurel, Maryland.
CORNELIA WALLACE: I came into the rally late at Laurel, Maryland. George was already speaking and it was a very calm crowd, very nice, congenial crowd. Everything just seemed really nice. So, he came down and he started shaking hands.
NARR: The Secret Service agent in charge asked Wallace not to go into the crowd. "Thats all right," Wallace said. "Ill take the responsibility."
CORNELIA WALLACE: And then all of a sudden, I heard, da, da, da-da-da. And then time just stood still.
I thought theyd shoot him again. And so I jumped on top of him, trying to cover up his head and his heart and his vital organs, his lungs. And, uh, there just wasnt anybody around him. Well, the Alabama bodyguard had been shot and blown out and knocked down. The Secret Service agent that was -- these two were supposed to protect his body -- got shot in the jaw and was vomiting and vomiting blood. So I just kept saying, uh, he, he was dazed and he didnt speak, and I kept saying, "George, Im going to take you home. Im going to take you home. And were going home now." And, uh, finally, all of a sudden somebody was pulling me away from him. I kept begging him, I said, "Let-- dont take me away from my husband now. Please dont take me away from my husband now."
I was able to get in the ambulance and they put George in, and the Alabama state trooper Dothard in on another stretcher.
Emcee: Please move back, ladies and gentlemen! Let the ambulance get out of here!
Please move back! Get out of the way!!! Get out of the way!!! GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!
CHESTNUT: I think I was in a courtroom and somebody came in and said that Wallace had been shot. They were all around Selma that day, folk, who disliked George Wallace intensely, were praying that hed recover. They didnt want him dead, uh, and that they-- there was no rejoicing among black Alabamians that George Wallace had been shot. But there was a lot of, "The chickens have come home to roost." You heard that everywhere.
CARTER: Wallace, by the mid-1960s was certainly aware that he was a figure in danger. That is wed had the assassination of Kenn-, the two Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, and he often talked about the danger that he had. But I think he always anticipated the kind of uh, political ideologue, somebody who opposed him, uh, uh, finding him at some moment and shooting him. George Wallace, the most intensely, ideological, political candidate of the 1960s, uh, ends up being shot by somebody who just wants to get his picture on the front page of "The New York Times."
KENNEDY: When my friend told me that he had been shot, and I don't know how to put this without it sounding, uh, really cruel, I was relieved in a way because it was over, and I didn't have to wake up another morning and think about, if this was going to be the day. And of course, you know, the fact that he lived was just, uh, wonderful. I mean, I would have given my life. I mean, I was just, it was wonderful that he lived. But the relief that, that it was over. That what you had feared was going to happen had happened, uh, just sort of rushed through me, and, uh, then I moved on and dealt with something else, see?
CORNELIA WALLACE: George was taken into the emergency room, the doctors
took a big safety pin and started pricking his leg and his skin didnt flinch. They said, "Governor, move your legs." And, uh, they said it three or four times, and he didnt. I said, "Hes hard of hearing, I said, he doesnt hear well." I said, "George, move your legs." And he didnt and then I looked up and they looked at me. And I knew he was paralyzed, they didnt say anything.
KENNEDY: The doctor sat me down, as he did the other children, one on one, and told us that he was paralyzed. Well, um, that was like losing the '58 campaign, you-- he, he's not supposed to lose and he's not supposed to be this way. And how iron-- how ironic for as, as quick a man, uh, in step and in gesture and in everything else to be paralyzed for the rest of his natural life.
CORNELIA WALLACE: From that moment, I made another decision, that he would never see me cry. That Id have to keep him cheered up and cheerful, that I couldnt afford the luxury of, of mourning and weeping and letting my hurt and pain come out. And I think it was twenty years later, before I could ever really feel the pain and hurt of what had happened to my husband. Whenever I just talked about this with people. I just uh, I couldnt talk about it anymore. And its still hard. Its really hard.
NIXON: I know that all of us, uh, certainly wish that Governor Wallace in this very difficult time, uh, will have not only the very best medical care, uh, but that, uh, he can recover from the wounds that he has received.
CARTER: Within minutes after, uh, George Wallace was shot in Laurel, Maryland, the Secret Service had informed the White House.
CARTER: And, uh, Richard Nixon with several of his aides immediately begins running through, well, what are the political implications of this? How they can turn it to their advantage? And they come up with this, uh, extraordinary scheme. George McGovern is likely to be Nixons opponent in the upcoming presidential race. Theyre going to plant McGovern material in Arthur Bremers apartment so that when the investigation goes forward, it will look somehow as though Arthur Bremer is a tool of George McGovern. The plan backfires, it fails because the, the F.B.I. gets there and they close off, uh, the apartment. The very idea that the President and his advisors are planning to do this, I think, in part, reflects not only the political machinations of the White House, but it also reflects the fear that Wallace instilled in the Nixon White House.
NARR: On July 7th, just seven weeks after the attempt on his life, George Wallace left Marylands Holy Cross Hospital.
Reporter off camera: How do you feel governor?
GEORGE WALLACE: I feel good, feel great.
NARR: With his campaign all but over he was headed to Miami, Florida, to address the delegates at the Democratic National Convention. Party officials had extended the invitation hoping to woo Wallace supporters. Wallace, in turn, hoped to find a place on the Democratic ticket.
GREENHAW: George went down and he looked pitiful. He looked like warmed over death. I mean, he looked horrible up there, suspended above this convention. I thought, my God, hey, if something slips and falls, he, hell be dead, you know. And what the hell is going on here? And he makes this kind of, uh, very awkward speech. I felt like, you know, hes trying to explain himself to the Democratic party.
GEORGE WALLACE: I wanted it again to become the party of the average citizen in this country as it used to be.
GREENHAW: And it didnt work.
EHRLICHMAN: Well, I think with most of us, he disappears. He ceases to have significance in the political race. He was not a factor in the election, and, um, we didnt respond to him. He, he was just a non-entity.
CORNELIA WALLACE: He was very depressed at times I expended a lot of energy and effort in pumping him back up. And I said, look, you-- your life. Trying to help him to understand, to be grateful that he was alive. And its very easy for me to say, very hard for someone whos going to be paralyzed. One time he just absolutely quit on us, wouldnt get up, wouldnt get out of bed. So I called my cousin who was an administrator of a V.A. hospital. And he said, "Ill send you two nurses down there." And the first day they came in their uniforms and their caps and they were big women. And they, uh, came in the room, and said, "Good morning, Governor." He put, put the sheet up over his head, he just wasnt going with them. [laughs] And uh, they said, "Well, its time to get up, Governor. Now what are you-- what are we going to do today, youre going to get up or just stay in bed?" He said, "Im going to stay in bed." And he pulled -- the sheet down and peeped out and he said, "I want to tell you two sergeants something." He said, "Im the commander of the Alabama National Guard, the chief in commander," and said, "aint no two sergeants going to tell me what to do." With that, they jerked the sheet back, they grabbed him up, they put him in the wheelchair and for two weeks, they pushed him through life.
KENNEDY: My father had hoped for recovery. Uh, I think he had hopes that he would walk again, as we all did. But as the months and the years went by, uh, you know that, uh, I don't know if you call it a dream, I don't know what he called it, but it diminished. And, uh, you know, his injuries were such that it just was not going to be.
GEORGE WALLACE: Ive had some mental stress and some anguish. And sometimes wonder, why did it happen to you? But I accepted the fact that I was not going to walk, save a miracle. And Ive adjusted my life, Ive accepted it. And, uh, so, I really dont worry about it.
CORNELIA WALLACE: The thing I never told him or said publicly was that what I really loved about him was that strutty, feisty walk he had. I really loved that and it hurt me that I wouldnt be able to see him like that again.
NARR: Wallace would remain governor of Alabama, winning re-election in 1974. But his national ambitions had not disappeared. With the fall of the Nixon presidency in scandal and the publics disenchantment with Washington insiders, the stage seemed set for the governor to take another run.
JENKINS: You have to keep in mind that, uh, by that time, he had-- was in a wheelchair and had been paralyzed for four years, and, and the very fact that he was running from a wheelchair, uh, shows the tenacity and determination of the man.
NARR: As the first presidential candidate openly running from a wheelchair, Wallace was making history. Even as president, Franklin Roosevelt had disguised his own paralysis with carefully choreographed entrances. Thanks to a cooperative press and a vigilant secret service, there are images of FDR in a wheelchair. But times had changed. The press had a relentless fascination with images of Wallace seemingly helpless and dogged his candidacy with questions about his health.
Interviewer [off camera]: Is George Wallace well enough to run for the presidency?
CORNELIA WALLACE: Hes well, perfectly healthy and well.
GEORGE WALLACE: I can understand that people can question about my health. But Franklin Roosevelt was elected four times in a wheelchair and as Al Smith said one time, "Youre not electing an acrobat." If you needed an acrobat to be president, I would not be qualified but you dont need an acrobat to be president.
Interviewer: He has been quoted as saying that he is in constant pain. Is he under medication anymore?
CORNELIA WALLACE: He takes, uh, Tegritol. It works on the central nervous system. But if it were any kind of, uh,thing I thought interfered with his line of work, uh
Interviewer [off camera]: You wouldnt let him take it.
CORNELIA WALLACE: I wouldnt let him take it. Hed just have to suffer. [laughs]
GREENHAW: It was Cornelias efforts and thinking about, uh, FDR and pushing the FDR model on Wallace and his rehabilitation in 1976. Tried to get him up and ready to go and to get ready to campaign hard and strong and have him physically able where he could lift himself up.
BUCHANAN: But for someone like Wallace whose, whose appeal really is, hes got a tremendous amount of animal energy and dynamism. If you cant stand up there on that podium, uh, it is a tremendous disadvantage.
JENKINS: The Florida primary was the acid test for Wallace. It was early, I think it was a spring primary. Most of the national Democrats had decided to forego Florida because, uh, they knew that Wallace was very likely to take the state.
NARR: Aside from Wallace, only two Democrats entered the Florida race. One was also a governor, from a Southern state Jimmy Carter.
Jimmy Carter: The major person being tested in Florida is not myself, its Governor Wallace. Hes got to do at least as well or better in 76 in Florida, his best state, than he did in 72.
NARR: Even as Wallace sought to bring the issues that had driven his career to the fore...
GEORGE WALLACE: We havent been against people. Weve been against big government trying to take over and write a guideline for you and tell you how to cross the street, what to do with your union and your business when you know how to do it yourself.
NARR: His campaign soon faltered over an aides stumble.
GEORGE WALLACE: Getting on the airplane, while theyre getting the airplane, uh, the people lifting me into the airplane dropped me. [laughs] And I thought that, uh, I might have a problem here because that knee bent too much. So I wanted to tell the news media about it , because they make a big thing, to-do about it.
Reporter [off camera]: Do you personally consider this to be a setback at all?
GEORGE WALLACE: Well, its, uh, its a disappointment, uh, you know. I think it would be a disappointment to anyone that sprained a ligament in their knee. And, uh, but were going to keep going, of course. Folks, thank you.
NARR: Unable to escape concerns about his health, Wallace lost to Carter in Florida and then again in North Carolina.
JENKINS: And this had the, the double effect of first eliminating Wallace from the, uh, 1976 race, and, second, uh, giving, uh, Jimmy Carter a tremendous surge as the person who stopped George Wallace.
BUCHANAN: But the reason Wallace, uh, could not do as well and did not beat Carter, quite frankly, was simply because he was handicapped. If he had not been handicapped, uh, Jimmy Carter would not have been president.
JENKINS: And in the end, uh, George Wallace endorsed Jimmy Carter. He did it to some extent out of spite. He, uh, he thought that this would be a way of getting back at the quote "Northern liberal Democratic establishment," by, uh, supporting a Southern governor. In effect, if I cant have it, then were going to have another Southern governor do it.
NARR: Carter became the first Southern governor to win the presidency since before the Civil War. He had taken the Wallace mantle as an outsider, but not the message. The Wallace themes would find a powerful voice and his supporters a new hero in Ronald Reagan. He shared Wallaces ability to connect with everyday Americans and he attacked many of the same targets. But Reagan projected a more positive view of the countrys future and that led to a movement that would come to dominate the nations politics for the last decades of the 20th century. George Wallace returned to Montgomery, as he always had after a failed presidential bid. But this time, he had only two more years of the governorship. And a marriage that had lifted him up after the shooting, now crashed around him.
GREENHAW: He began to accuse her of having affairs with state troopers. She accused him of talking to his old girlfriends on the phone all the time, uh, and trying to lure them over to the mansion. They, uh, tapped each others phones. And then sooner or later, you know, it just turned so nasty that, uh, that they filed divorce papers, and it was a, a nasty couple of weeks in the courtrooms, uh, and, and in the newspapers.
Reporter: A truck pulled up to the governors mansion in Montgomery, Alabama today and loaded aboard Mrs. Cornelia Wallaces personal items. She was moving out. Couldnt take it anymore, she said. The vulgarity, threats and abuse, as she put it. She and Governor Wallace have had marital troubles for some time. He has a lawyer working on a divorce. She said today that she has struggled to save her marriage but without success.
NARR: 1976 seemed to be the end of a long journey for George Wallace. But there was one transformation left, one built from the suffering of a broken body, from a rediscovered religious faith, from reflection upon a life.
CARTER: George Wallaces life uh, had its ups and downs, but it was uh, it was pretty down after, after 76. Uh, hes essentially finished as a national candidate, he leaves the governorship in 1978, and hes a fundraiser for a medical school in Birmingham, but he spends much of his time, uh, alone. Um, hes never been very close to his family, and he broods a lot. And he begins to think about, uh, his life. I think the way all good uh, Southern evangelicals or evangelicals do, "Im at the end of my life, now what have I accomplished, what have I done, what have I done right, what have I done wrong."
GEORGE WALLACE: If I didnt have what it took to treat a man fair regardless of his color, then I dont have what it takes to be the governor of your great state.
TRAMMELL: I was outniggered and I will never be outniggered again.
GEORGE WALLACE: And I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.
CARTER: And although Wallace would never admit that he was a hater -- he always says he wasnt -- he realizes the consequences of his actions, in terms of those around him.
GEORGE WALLACE: And now theyve created themselves a Frankenstein monster and the chickens are coming home to roost all over this country.
WALLACE, JR: His own suffering and purification that brings and the enlightenment that brings, and his realization that some things he had done and said could have caused others to suffer, bothered him, concerned him as a Christian.
CARTER: And so, one by one, he picks up the telephone and he begins calling his old enemies, the people who he had, uh, used as kind of punching bags in the 1960s. And asked for their forgiveness.
NARR: One of those Wallace called was a civil rights leader whod been beaten bloody by Wallaces state troopers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965.
LEWIS: Uh, he was very candid, very frank, I thought. He literally poured out his soul and heart to me. Uh, it was almost like a confession, like I was his priest. He was telling me everything. That he did some things that was wrong, and that he was not proud of. He, he kept saying to me, "John, I dont hate anybody. I, I dont hate anybody."
NARR: In 1982, Wallace returned to politics, running once again for the governors office.
NARR: Somehow Wallaces pleas for forgiveness had struck a chord.
GEORGE WALLACE: And whether or not youve agreed with me at everything that I used to do, and agreed to, I know that you do not. I, too, see the mistakes that all of us made in years past.
Black woman: You know, God said you must repent. And hes repented. Uh, Governor Wallace is a child of God now. You can believe that. He helped everybody, especially the black and the poor.
GREENHAW: Heres George Wallace from a wheelchair running in 82. The guy wins with the black vote. He could not have won without it.
LEWIS: He wanted the black vote and he went out and campaigned for those votes. He made promises and a lot of black folks went out and voted for him and they supported him.
Black man: He said that, uh, he was wrong on segregation-- "I mistreated folk and I want a chance to repent." But the burden of proof now is on him, and, of course, only time will tell.
NARR: For the next four years, Wallace kept that promise. Appointing record numbers of blacks. And depending on a coalition of blacks and whites for legislative support.
WALLACE, JR: He had meetings, uh, in this very building in the governors office, among, uh, black leaders and sought to build bridges. And if he was the epitome of resistance, he became the epitome of change in the New South.
LEWIS: In a, in a very strange sense, he was somewhat reverting back to the old Wallace, maybe, just maybe to his true self.
Tammy Wynette: Governor George Wallace, we love him.
FLOWERS: I dont think George changed later on in his life. I think he went back to the George Wallace that I used to know. He really was for the downtrodden. He really wanted to help the people that needed help. And he more or less dropped back into the old pattern of the real George Wallace.
WALLACE, JR: His health had deteriorated some during that term. And, uh, I dont believe he believed he could give a full measure of himself, uh, had he run again. Uh, he actually had two speeches with him as he went to the capitol, and no one knew which one he planned to give. One was that he would seek the office again. One was that he would retire.
GEORGE WALLACE: I would like to be part of the future myself. And during the past few days I have done much evaluation and much soul searching. And some of you younger may not realize that I paid a pretty high price in 1972. Those five bullets gave me a thorn in the flesh, as it did for Apostle Paul. And I prayed that they should be removed but they were not. I realized in my own mind that all Im doing is very good at the present time. As I grow older the effects of my problem may become more noticeable. I feel that I must say that Ive climbed my last political mountain. But theres still some personal hills that I must climb. But for now, I must pass the rope and the pick to another climber and say, "Climb on. Climb on to higher heights. Climb on til you reach the very peak. Then look back and wave at me, for I, too, will still be climbing." My fellow Alabamians, I bid you a fond and affectionate farewell. You are very kind. Good-bye. Good-bye.
JENKINS: Well, [chuckles] uh, anything good out of the Wallace years? It-- Im afraid I cant think of a single thing. [chuckles]
INGRAM: Much that has transpired in, in government in, on the federal level in recent years was what Wallace had espoused. Not on, on, so much on race. That's, that's the same people focus on that. But he was against big government. He was for strong military. He was concerned about, uh, welfare abuse. And that's what we talk about now.
BUCHANAN: He has never gotten credit for being the, the figure he was and having the influence he did upon subsequent politics, uh, Nixon and Agnew, the Reagan movement, uh, frankly the Buchanan movement, the Perot movement, and the others.
CARTER: Hes the man whos not visible. Hes the invisible founding father in this whole process. The very people who profited from Wallaces ideas are the people who dont want to recognize him. Hes simply not respectable.
CHESTNUT: I have no problem forgiving George Wallace. I will not forget George Wallace because we must deal with the reality of Wallace. How is it that a demagogue, insulting twenty million black people daily on the television, can rise to the heights that Wallace did? Forgive, yes. Forget, never.
WALLACE, JR: The man I see is not the man that many people see when they think of George Wallace. I see a man whos walked with his Lord and his, his faith and his forgiveness of the man who shot him five times and his expression of love for that man. And I truly believe the greatest story of him has to do with that personal side, rather than anything political.
INGRAM: I think, uh, uh, [sighs] I think in this conversion of Wallace, uh, he's cramming for final exams. He knows death is not too far away, and he wants to be on the right side, and, uh, I wish him the best. I, I feel sorry for him. To see this dynamic, energetic man just be a pathetic, deaf, almost blind, paralyzed, uh, and in constant pain. Its-- I, I don't want that-- I don't wish that on anyone.
WILLIAMS: The things that he have gone through, it was enough to change him. And I do believe he has changed.