American History16 Nov 2009 03:30 pm
“It is very appropriate that from this cradle of the Confederacy, this very heart of the great Anglo-Saxon Southland, that today we sound the drum for freedom as have our generations of forebears before us time and again down through history. Let us rise to the call for freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South. In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”- George Wallace, from his inaugural speech as governor of Alabama (1963).
In November 1962, George Wallace was elected governor of Alabama in a landslide victory, largely based on his pro-segregationist views. Putting his money where his mouth was, Wallace stood in front of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963, in an effort to keep black students Vivian Malone and James Hood out of the building. Wallace only stepped aside after being confronted by a throng of federal marshals, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and the Alabama National Guard. Bowed but unbroken, Wallace continued his fight against, “Martin Luther King and his group of pro-Communists who have instituted these demonstrations,” by again unsuccessfully attempting to stop four black students from enrolling in elementary schools in Huntsville, Alabama in 1963.
In the 1970s, Wallace became a born-again Christian and claimed to have realized the error of his ways. Conveniently, his change of heart dovetailed with a significant increase in the number of black voters in Alabama. In an appeal to black voters, Wallace stated in 1979 that, “I was wrong. Those days are over and they ought to be over.” However, to be fair to Wallace, his term as Governor (1983-1987) saw a record number of black appointments to government positions for its time.
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