On this dayJan 14, 1963
Newly Elected Governor George Wallace Calls For “Segregation Forever!”
On January 14, 1963, after being overwhelmingly elected by white Alabama voters, George Wallace, the infamous segregationist and white supremacist, delivered his inaugural address as the governor of Alabama, and called for “segregation now... segregation tomorrow... segregation forever!” Throughout his speech he condemned integration and criticized federal intervention in state affairs.
Running for office almost a decade after Brown v. Board of Education, Governor Wallace’s 1962 campaign used the slogan “Stand up for Alabama,” and he vowed to fight integration at the University of Alabama. Six months later, Governor Wallace launched himself into the national spotlight by physically blocking two Black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from enrolling at the University of Alabama. The dramatic “stand in the schoolhouse door” was broadcast on national television, and within a week, Wallace received over 100,000 telegrams from white people commending his actions.
The political legacy of four-time Alabama governor and four-time presidential candidate George Wallace is enduring and increasingly relevant today. Governor Wallace developed a political identity that combined racial demagoguery and fiery rhetoric to defend segregation under the veneer of “states’ rights.” By appealing to racial sentiments, Wallace gained the support of voters who felt threatened by increasing Black political power.
During the 1968 presidential election campaign, a year fraught with racial injustice after, among other things, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Governor Wallace ran as an independent candidate on the back of his racially charged message. At a campaign stop where he was asked about the year’s protests against racial injustice, Governor Wallace said: "We don't have riots in Alabama! They start a riot down there, first one of 'em to pick up a brick gets a bullet in the brain, that's all. And then you walk over to the next one and say, 'All right, pick up a brick. We just want to see you pick up one of them bricks now!” Governor Wallace was overwhelmingly popular with Southern white people and became the most successful and popular independent candidate in modern presidential election history—receiving almost 10,000,000 votes during the general election and winning the electoral votes of five states—Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Today, a portion of Interstate 10 in Alabama and community colleges in the cities of Dothan and Eufaula bear George Wallace’s name. He remains one of the most infamous and influential segregationist leaders of his era.
Segregationists like Governor Wallace, operating at the highest levels of government, represented and advanced the views of the majority of white citizens at the time. Read EJI’s report on Segregation in America to learn more.