George Corley Wallace was
born on August 25, 1919 in a four-room "shotgun" house just off Main
Street in Clio, Alabama. In all, the Wallaces had four children: George, Gerald,
Jack, and Marianne. The family, like many others in the rural South, suffered
hardships with the collapse of the economy during the Depression.
leanings were, no doubt, shaped by the rural poverty he experienced and his
father's open bitterness regarding the economic conditions in the South. George
Sr. often expressed to his son that "Southerners couldn't be elected to
national office because (Northerners) looked down upon us." Little did his
father realize the impact his opinions would have on the political platforms of
the future Alabama governor.
A University of Alabama
Law School graduate, Wallace served as an army air force flight engineer during
World War II. Admitted to the bar
in 1942, he was active in the Alabama Democratic party, serving in the state
assembly (1947–53) and as a district court judge (1953–59). In 1962 he won
election as governor as an avowed segregationist, and promised to defy federal
orders to integrate Alabama schools. In June 1963, Wallace blocked two black
students from entering the Univ. of Alabama, but capitulated when President
Kennedy federalized the Alabama national guard.
Prevented by state law from succeeding himself as governor in
1966, Wallace had his wife, Lurleen Burns Wallace, 1926–68, run successfully
in his place. As a leading opponent to federal interference in state issues, and
a strong advocate for state’s rights, Wallace was an opponent of the civil-rights
movement and demands by the federal government for states to submit to federal
will. Wallace campaigned for
president in 1968 on a third-party ticket, capitalizing on strong state’s
rights attitudes in the South, and racist and anti-Washington attitudes in both
North and South to energize many. Wallace
carried many of the Southern states, but still lost the national election.