George Corley Wallace Apologetic racist: In death, he will be remembered for words and deeds many could not forgive.

September 16, 1998

FOR 26 YEARS after he was shot by Arthur Bremer in a Laurel shopping center, George C. Wallace endured unbearable phantom pains in his paralyzed legs. Some said God wouldn't let Alabama's infamous segregationist governor die until he had suffered greatly for the anguish he had caused others. True or not, the suffering is over. Mr. Wallace, 79, died Sunday,

He was perhaps the most important loser in the history of American politics. Having built a powerful political machine in Alabama on a vow never to be "out-segged," Mr. Wallace took his racist rhetoric national in a 1964 presidential campaign that received surprising support in the North.

A subsequent third-party campaign in 1968 showed his attractiveness to conservative voters was no fluke. Mr. Wallace's relative success pushed the Republican Party to right-wing positions that ended the Democrats' dominance in the South. It was during a third campaign for president in 1972 that Mr. Wallace was shot. In a wheelchair, he ran again in 1976.

The four losing presidential runs matched the number of times Mr. Wallace was elected governor. In his last gubernatorial campaign in 1982, he promised to increase education spending and received substantial votes from African Americans. Mr. Wallace subsequently appointed the most blacks to public office in state history.

On several occasions in his final years, Mr. Wallace apologized for having set the stage for brutal attacks on civil rights activists with his inflammatory "segregation forever" speeches.

After state troopers beat marchers in Selma, Ala., in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson warned Mr. Wallace that on his death he could leave an epitaph that said, "George Wallace. He Built." or one that said, "George Wallace. He Hated." By the time Mr. Wallace decided which tombstone he preferred, it was too late.

Pub Date: 9/16/98

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