George Wallace

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If any demonstrator ever lays down in front of my car, it'll be the last car he'll ever lay down in front of.

George Corley Wallace, Jr. (25 August 191913 September 1998) was an American politician who served as the 45th governor of Alabama for four terms. A member of the Democratic Party, he is remembered for his staunch segregationist and populist views. Wallace sought the United States presidency as a Democrat on three occasions, and once as an American Independent Party candidate; he was unsuccessful each time. Wallace opposed desegregation and supported the policies of "Jim Crow" during the Civil Rights Movement, declaring in his 1963 inaugural address that he stood for "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever".


I shall resist any illegal federal court order, even to the point of standing at the schoolhouse door in person, if necessary.
We shall continue to maintain segregation in Alabama completely and absolutely without violence or ill-will.
Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!
  • Why does the Air Force need expensive new bombers? Have the people we've been bombing over the years been complaining?
    • Absurdities, Scandals & Stupidities in Politics (2006) by Hakeem Shittu and Callie Query, p. 106
  • If any demonstrator ever lays down in front of my car, it'll be the last car he'll ever lay down in front of.
    • Said at a speech, footage of which is shown in the documentary George Wallace, part of PBS' American Experience


  • We shall continue to maintain segregation in Alabama completely and absolutely without violence or ill-will. … I advocate hatred of no man, because hate will only compound the problems facing the South. … We ask for patience and tolerance and make an earnest request that we be allowed to handle state and local affairs without outside interference.
    • First gubernatorial campaign (14 February 1958), quoted in George Wallace: American Populist (1995) by Stephen Lesher
  • I want to tell the good people of this state as a judge of the 3rd Judicial Circuit, if I didn’t have what it took to treat a man fair regardless of his color, then I don’t have what it takes to be the governor of your great state.
    • First gubernatorial campaign (1958), quoted in George Wallace: Conservative Populist (2004) by Lloyd Earl Rohler
  • I was out-niggered by John Patterson. And I'll tell you here and now, I will never be out-niggered again.
    • To Seymore Trammell (1958), quoted in George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire


  • As your governor, I shall resist any illegal federal court order, even to the point of standing at the schoolhouse door in person, if necessary.
    • Gubernatorial campaign promise (1962), quoted in George Wallace: Conservative Populist
  • 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 and segregation forever.
    • First Inaugural Speech as Governor of Alabama, (January 1963)
  • I stand here today, as Governor of this sovereign state, and refuse to willingly submit to illegal usurpation of power by the Central Government.
    • Speech in the door of the University of Alabama auditorium (11 June 1963), quoted in New York Times (12 June 1963) "Alabama Admits Negro Students"
  • The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted, and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the central government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this state by officers of the federal government.
    • Speech in the door of the University of Alabama auditorium
  • You’ve got some folks out here who know a lot of four letter words. But there are two four-letter words they don’t know. W-O-R-K and S-O-A-P, you don’t know those two letter words I’ll tell you that much.
    • 18th October 1968 [1]
  • I am a conservative. I intend to give the American people a clear choice. I welcome a fight between our philosophy and the liberal left-wing dogma which now threatens to engulf every man, woman, and child in the United States. I am in this race because I believe the American people have been pushed around long enough and that they, like you and I, are fed up with the continuing trend toward a socialist state which now subjects the individual to the dictates of an all-powerful central government.
  • There is no need for him to call on me. I am not about to be a party to anything having to do with the law that is going to destroy individual freedom and liberty in this country. I am having nothing to do with enforcing a law that will destroy our free enterprise system. I am having nothing to do with enforcing a law that will destroy neighborhood schools. I am having nothing to do with enforcing a law that will destroy the rights of private property. I am having nothing to do with enforcing a law that destroys your right --and my right -- to choose my neighbors -- or to sell my house to whomever I choose. I am having nothing to do with enforcing a law that destroys the labor seniority system. I am having nothing to do with this so-called civil rights bill. The liberal left-wingers have passed it. Now let them employ some pinknik social engineers in Washington, D.C., to figure out what to do with it.
  • Being governor don't mean a thing anymore in this country. We're nothing. Just high-paid ornaments is all. I'm thinking of running for president myself.
    • Quoted in "On the Lookout for Lurleen" Life (22 July 1966) by Shana Alexander


  • I have learned what suffering means. In a way that was impossible, I think I can understand something of the pain black people have come to endure. I know I contributed to that pain, and I can only ask your forgiveness.
    • Address to the Montgomery Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (1979), as quoted in "George Wallace – From the Heart" (17 March 1995), The Washington Post.
  • I was wrong. Those days are over, and they ought to be over.
    • Speech (1979), as quoted in Government in America: people, politics, and policy (2009), by George C. Edwards, Pearson Education, p. 80.


  • I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor.
    • Attributed in George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire.

Quotes about Wallace

  • I'm not about to accept another kind of cultural dictatorship. I won't accept it from Governor Wallace, and I won't accept it from anybody else, either. I am an artist. No one will tell me what to do. You can shoot me and throw me off a tower, but you cannot tell me what to write or how to write it. Because I won't go.
    • 1970 interview in Conversations with James Baldwin edited by Louis H. Pratt and Fred L. Standley (1989)
  • Everyone overlooks the impact on the black population of our country of the present Administration, and that is very sinister. It's an insult to every black American that the President of the United States should be in competition with the governor of Alabama for votes. The civil rights laws? Bullshit.
    • 1972 interview in Conversations with James Baldwin edited by Louis H. Pratt and Fred L. Standley (1989)
  • But no one who knew Wallace well ever took seriously his earnest profession, uttered a thousand times after 1963, that he [had been] a segregationist, not a racist...
    • Dan T. Carter, The Politics of Rage (1995, pp. 236-37)
  • Wallace, like most white southerners of his generation, genuinely believed blacks to be a separate, inferior race.
    • Dan T. Carter, The Politics of Rage (1995, pp. 236-37)
  • During her failed presidential bid, Mrs. Chisholm went to the hospital to visit George C. Wallace, her rival candidate and ideological opposite, after he had been shot -- an act that appalled her followers. "He said, 'What are your people going to say?' I said: 'I know what they're going to say. But I wouldn't want what happened to you to happen to anyone.' He cried and cried," she recalled.
  • "Governor Wallace" is a song that came out of the response to the violence against nonviolent marches on the Pettus Bridge. And it’s addressed to Governor Wallace. It says, “You cannot put all of us, who are going to pour into Alabama, in jail. You cannot jail us all.”
  • A decade later, Alabama governor George Wallace’s defiant segregationist stance vaulted him to national prominence, leading to surprisingly vigorous bids for the presidency in 1968 and 1972. Wallace engaged in what journalist Arthur Hadley called the “old and honorable American tradition of hate the powerful.” He was, Hadley wrote, a master at exploiting “plain old American rage.” Wallace often encouraged violence and displayed a casual disregard for constitutional norms, declaring: "There is one thing more powerful than the Constitution….That’s the will of the people. What is a Constitution anyway? They’re the products of the people, the people are the first source of power, and the people can abolish a Constitution if they want to." Wallace’s message, which mixed racism with populist appeals to working-class whites’ sense of victimhood and economic anger, helped him make inroads into the Democrats’ traditional blue-collar base. Polls showed that roughly 40 percent of Americans approved of Wallace in his third-party run in 1968, and in 1972 he shocked the establishment by emerging as a serious contender in the Democratic primaries. When Wallace’s campaign was derailed by an assassination attempt in May 1972, he was leading George McGovern by more than a million votes in the primaries.
    • Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (2018) How Democracies Die. New York: Crown.
  • I came away from these Wallace [supporter] interviews with two basic feelings. First, that democracy in America (in any sense of the word) just might not make it. My mind flashed to scenes of Germany in the late 1920's. Confusion, rebellion, frustration, economic instability, a wounded national pride, ineffectual political leadership — and the desire for a strong man who would do something, who would bring order out of the chaos. Could it happen here? With the inability of the national leadership to solve the real problems facing this country, could the the blacks, long-hairs, "welfare chiselers", and political dissidents become the Jews and Communists of the Nazi experience? Could it happen here? I see no reason why it couldn't.
    • Bernie Sanders (June 1972). "Wallace in St. Albans: some interviews/some thoughts". Movement 1 (2)., quoted in McDermott, Nathan (May 8, 2019). The Making of Bernie Sanders: How a hitchhiking campaigner pushed a vision that remains remarkably unchanged. CNN.
  • Four-time Alabama Democratic governor George Wallace lost his first gubernatorial race when he ran as an economic populist against a candidate with a segregationist platform and famously vowed never to be "outniggered again" and he never was. He declared, "Segregation now, segregation forever!" as he took the oath of office in 1963. He stood in a schoolhouse's door in Tuscaloosa to prevent black students from integrating it. He was responsible for the vicious beating of voting-rights activists in Selma. By 1984, however, Wallace's memory of his own actions, like Stephens's, had changed. "It was not an antagonism towards black people, and that's what some people can't understand," Wallace explained to a reporter from PBS for the documentary Eyes on the Prize. "White Southerners did not believe it was discrimination. They thought it was in the best interest of both the races. "I love black people. I love white people. I love yellow people," Wallace said. "I'm a Christian and, therefore, I don't have any ill feeling toward anybody because of the race, 'cause our black people are some of our finest citizens." In remarkable symmetry with Stephens's defense of treason in defense of slavery, Wallace recalled his defense of racial apartheid as resistance to tyranny. "I spoke vehemently against the federal government, not against people. I talked about the, the government of the, the United States and the Supreme Court. I never expressed in any language that would upset anyone about a person's race. I talked about the Supreme Court usurpation of power. I talked about the big central government," Wallace said. "Isn't that what everybody talks about now? Isn't that what Reagan got elected on? Isn't that what all the legislators, electors, members of Congress, and the Senate and House both say?"
  • The day after Moore's body was found on the road near Attalla, Alabama, a poll was made by telephone of the SNCC Executive Committee, and they agreed to continue his walk to Jackson, Mississippi. The following day, April 25, 1963, SNCC sent a wire to Alabama Governor George C. Wallace, informing him of the walk, and asking him: "Will the State of Alabama provide protection for our walkers?" Wallace had denounced the murder and even offered a reward for apprehension of the killer, but he replied: "Your proposed actions, calculated to cause unrest, disorder, and a breach of the peace in the state of Alabama, will not be condoned or tolerated. Laws of the State of Alabama will be strictly enforced."


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