On this day in history, unrepentant racist George Wallace took the oath of office as the new Governor of Alabama. His inauguration speech, written by a leader of the Ku Klux Klan, promised followers “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”
In June 1963, Wallace was famously forced to yield to federal pressure for integration and end his blockade of the University of Alabama. He became a national spokesman for resistance to racial change and in 1964 entered the race for the U.S. presidency. He ran again in 1968, drawing 10 million votes from across the country.
In 1972, Governor Wallace made his third bid for president, but was shot at a rally in Maryland. He ended up permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
After his recovery, he faded from national prominence and made a poor showing in his fourth and final presidential campaign in 1979. But then during the 1980s, he seemed to go through a radical shift in attitude. He contacted civil rights leaders asking their forgiveness, and actually gained the political support of Alabama’s growing African-American electorate. In 1983 he was elected Alabama governor for the last time with their overwhelming support. During the next four years, Wallace made more African-American political appointments than any other figure in Alabama history.
He died in 1998.