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“They Stomped the Floor”

Alabama Governor and Presidential Candidate George C. Wallace (1919-1998)

Alabama Governor and Presidential Candidate George C. Wallace (1919-1998)

Politically speaking, I come from a very divided family. My brother and I were Liberal Democrats, my mother was an independent (she loved John B. Anderson in 1980), and my father was a staunch follower of segregationist Alabama Governor George C. Wallace.

Actually Wallace was not always a segregationist. He started out as a circuit judge of the Third Judicial Circuit in Alabama, where he was known for his fairness, irrespective of race. He even called Black attorneys “Mister” rather than patronizingly referring to them by their first names.

When he ran for governor of Alabama in 1958, he was defeated by John Malcolm Patterson, who ran with the support of the Ku Klux Klan, against which Wallace had spoken on occasion. (in fact, the NAACP had supported Wallace.) This loss wrought a change in the candidate: “You know why I lost that governor’s race? … I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I’ll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again.” And he wasn’t.

From this point on, Wallace adopted an wavering segregationist policy. “You know, 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.”

Alas, my poor father was also anti-integration. As an uneducated factory worker, he was afraid that Southern Blacks were coming to take away his job. So he thought Wallace was the man to stem that tide. Today, he would probably vote for Trump.