Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Montage of images and link description. Houdini Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
Timeline of George Wallace's Life index.html index_2.html index_3.html
1953 Succeeding at yet another campaign, Wallace is elected judge in the Third Judicial Circuit Court. He held this position through 1959, during which time he earned the nickname "the fightin' little judge" -- a reference to his boxing days.
1954 May: The U.S. Supreme Court calls for an end to segregation in public schools in their ruling on "Brown vs. The Board of Education."
1955 December 1: NAACP member Rosa Parks is arrested in Montgomery for refusing to relinquish her seat to a white rider. Her arrest spawned the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began on December 5 and lasted for an entire year. Many trace the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement to Parks' act.
1956 June 1: Alabama outlaws the NAACP.

December 21: The Montgomery Bus Boycott ends with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that buses must be integrated.
1958 May 6: Wallace experiences his first defeat by incumbent John Patterson in the primary for Alabama's gubernatorial race. Patterson ran with the backing of the Ku Klux Klan. Wallace had spoken out against the KKK and refused its support, receiving the NAACP's endorsement. He lost the election by more than 64,000 votes. This defeat marked a turning point in his politics and campaign style.
1959 January: Now a hard-line segregationist, Wallace refuses to cooperate with the Civil Rights Commission, designed to investigate voting rights abuses. Although he ultimately surrendered local voting records to avoid jail time, Wallace used this stand to court the white vote in the next gubernatorial election.
1961 April: Janie Lee, the Wallaces' fourth child, is born. Always called Lee, she was named after Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
1962 June: Running on a pro-segregation, pro-states' rights platform, Wallace is elected governor of Alabama in a landslide victory.
1963 January 14: Wallace delivers his "segregation now, segregation forever" inaugural speech, penned by Asa Carter, the founder of a KKK terrorist organization. Ten years later, Carter moved to Texas and assumed the identity of Native American Forrest Carter, later writing his "autobiography," "The Education of Little Tree."

June 2: Wallace makes his first appearance on national television, on NBC's "Meet the Press," to discuss the impending court-ordered integration of the University of Alabama.

June 11: Wallace makes his "stand in the schoolhouse door" at the University of Alabama, temporarily blocking the admission of two black students who have legally enrolled at the University. Although Wallace soon backs down, footage of the event was broadcast on national television.

June 12: Medgar Evers, an NAACP worker in Mississippi, is murdered by white supremacist Byron de la Beckwith.

August 28: Martin Luther King, Jr., delivers his "I have a dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial to the 250,000 people gathered for the peaceful March on Washington.

September 15: The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham is bombed by the KKK. Four African American girls die in the blast, sparking armed conflict between blacks and whites. Although bombings of black churches had been occurring throughout the Deep South and particularly in Birmingham since 1948, this tragic event galvanizes the Civil Rights Movement.

November 22: John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas, by Lee Harvey Oswald. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as president.
1964 July 2: President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Bill, calling for, among other things, the integration of public places which had previously been whites-only.

The war in Vietnam escalates after a U.S. destroyer is allegedly attacked off the coast of North Vietnam. The war will continue through the Johnson and Nixon administrations.

Wallace enters the Democratic presidential primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland, and Indiana, showing surprising strength as a national candidate, winning as much as a third of the vote.
1965 February 21: Malcolm X is assassinated.

March 7: "Bloody Sunday." Voting rights advocates attempt to march from Selma to the state capital. Wallace had tried to prevent the march by calling on the highway patrol. State troopers hold back the marchers with tear gas, clubs, and extreme violence.

March 21: A second Selma-to-Montgomery March begins, this time under the protection of a federal court order. More than 25,000 march to the Alabama Capitol Building to ask Wallace to remove all remaining obstacles to black voter registration. Although the 15th Amendment prohibited racial discrimination in voting, state laws and practices were in place which made it difficult, if not impossible, for blacks to register to vote.

August 6: President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Bill.

October: Wallace orders the Alabama state legislature to draw up an amendment to allow a sitting governor to run for a second term, which was until then forbidden. When he doesn't get the necessary number of votes, he encourages his wife, Lurleen, to run as his stand-in. Shortly thereafter, Lurleen Wallace is diagnosed with cancer.
1966 March: Lurleen Wallace announces her candidacy shortly after undergoing radiation therapy and surgery for the treatment of cancer.

November 4: Lurleen Wallace is elected governor of Alabama in a landslide victory.
1968 April 4: Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee., by James Earl Ray.

May 6: Lurleen Wallace dies of cancer in office. Lieutenant Governor Albert Brewer assumes her position. Five weeks later, Wallace launches his presidential campaign as the nominee of the anti-liberal American Independent party, shifting the focus of his platform from race to Communism following the passage of the Voting Rights Bill.

June 5: Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated in California by Sirhan Sirhan.

October: Wallace chooses General Curtis LeMay as his running mate. LeMay's pro-nuclear weapon stance does not help Wallace in the national election, but the governor's "outsider" status remains popular with voters.

November: Richard Nixon defeats Hubert Humphrey and Wallace, but the governor once again makes a strong showing, carrying five Southern states and almost enough electoral votes to throw the election to the House of Representatives.
1970 Wallace is elected governor for a second term, running an underground racist campaign. In an effort to dash Wallace's political future, President Nixon had backed incumbent Albert Brewer in the Democratic primary, and also launched an IRS investigation of possible illegalities in the Wallace campaign.

A Gallup poll shows Wallace to be the seventh most admired man in America, just ahead of the Pope.
1971 January 4: Wallace marries Cornelia Snively two weeks before the gubernatorial inauguration. Cornelia Wallace was credited with creating a more sophisticated image for Wallace. Shortly after his marriage, he told reporters he had never believed in segregation.

1972 Wallace enters the presidential primary again, this time as a Democrat. Running in Florida against the liberal George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey, and nine other Democratic opponents, Wallace wins by an overwhelming majority, carrying every county in the state.

May 15: Twenty-one-year-old Arthur Bremer shoots Wallace in Laurel, Maryland, paralyzing him below the waist. Bremer's diary, published after his arrest as "An Assassin's Diary," showed that Bremer's assassination attempt was not motivated by politics, but by a desire to become famous.

Following the shooting, Wallace wins primaries in Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

July 7: Confined to a wheelchair, Wallace is released from the hospital and speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Miami. George McGovern is chosen as the Democratic nominee for president. Richard Nixon defeated McGovern in an overwhelming landslide.

Wallace serves a third term as governor, possible because of the passage of an amendment permitting a governor to serve two consecutive terms. His third term was characterized by generous social programs.

Foretelling his future Christian "rebirth," Wallace appears on Jerry Falwell's "The Old-Time Gospel Hour."
1919 - 1951 | 1952 - 1972 | 1973 - 1998
The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline | Maps | People & Events | Teacher's Guide
The American Experience | Kids | Feedback | Search | Shop | Subscribe

©  New content 2000 PBS Online / WGBH

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: