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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Flashback: Meeting Presidential Candidate George C. Wallace

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

By Donald V. Watkins

©Copyrighted and Published on April 22, 2018

In 1968, I met Alabama Governor George Wallace in his office at the State Capitol. This meeting is memorialized in the photo below. I was on Spring Break as a sophomore at Southern Illinois University at the time. Wallace was in his heyday as an "Old South" segregationist governor.

Please note the “Wallace for President - 68” campaign sign on Wallace’s desktop lamp. He ran in the 1968 U.S. presidential election as the candidate for the American Independent Party. Wallace tapped retired Air Force General Curtis LeMay as his vice presidential running mate.

Wallace's segregationist policies as governor, though popular in Alabama, were rejected by mainstream Americans.

Wallace won 9,901,118 (or 13.5%) of the 73,199,998 votes cast nationally in the 1968 presidential election. He carried five Southern states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Wallace came fairly close to receiving enough electoral votes to throw the election to the House of Representatives.

Wallace ran for president again in 1972. His presidential aspirations came to an abrupt halt on May 15, 1972 when Arthur Bremer shot him during a campaign stop at a Maryland shopping center. Wallace survived the assassination attempt, but was paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life.

The man who stood in the door at Foster Auditorium on the campus of The University of Alabama in 1963 to block the admission of two African-American students -- Vivian Malone and James Hood -- spent the rest of his life confined to a wheelchair.

Black Alabamians eventually forgave Wallace for his racist past and supported his 1982 bid for governor. He won the election with their support.

Wallace died on September 13, 1998.

I dedicated my entire 45-year career as an attorney to dismantling every barrier Wallace erected to racial equality in Alabama.

In the end, “good” always triumphs over “evil.”

PHOTO: Alabama Governor George C. Wallace (left) greets a young Donald V. Watkins (second left) at the State Capitol in 1968. Wallace was running for President of the United States at the time. He won five Southern states, but lost the election.


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