George Wallace

George Wallace served as governor of Alabama from 1959 to 1965 and from 1971 to 1986. He ran for President in 1964 and 1968. Wallace was born in 1919, grew up in a farming family without much money or privilege, and worked his way through school. He graduated from the University of Alabama law school in 1943 and then served in the Army Air Corps, flying bombing missions over Japan at the end of World War II. He was discharged for medical reasons related to stress and combat anxiety. Wallace returned to civilian life to become an assistant district attorney and immediately ran for office, a seat in the Alabama House. After success as an elected circuit judge and a reputation for fairness and tolerance in racial matters, he ran for governor in 1958. He lost and after that shifted his political stance on race, hardening it to defend segregation at all costs. Wallace dramatically stood in the door of the University of Alabama to prevent the integration of that institution on June 11, 1963, a largely symbolic gesture staged to show his opposition to the Kennedy administration's civil rights policies. Wallace vowed in his 1963 inaugural address to preserve "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." Years later he recanted and begged forgiveness from black Alabamians for his callous and vicious stands on the issue. Wallace died in 1998.