Shooting saved Wallace

Published 7:30 am Wednesday, October 21, 2009

By Staff
Albert Brewer began the writing of George Wallace’s political obituary by beating him in the first primary in 1970. However, Wallace arose from the grave by playing his ever present race card. He trumped Brewer with the race issue in the primary runoff and came from behind to win. He resurrected his political career. Wallace would be governor again for a third time.
Brewer had mortally wounded Wallace with his slogan, “Alabama needs a fulltime governor.” It was a stake through the heart to the Wallace segregationist armor. Alabamians loved Wallace for fighting integration but they also knew he had not been working fulltime as their governor. Instead, he had been using the title to campaign for president although he was as about as likely to succeed as Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Brewer offered Alabamians the opportunity to have a fulltime, hands on, progressive governor.
Wallace survived the runoff by begging for forgiveness for his absenteeism and promising fervently that all he wanted was to be governor. He pled 20 times a day during the 30-day runoff, knowing Brewer hit a sore spot. The people believed Wallace and felt sorry for their racist hero. After all, he had been telling the whole country how refined we were in Alabama, that busing was wrong in Boston just like it was in Birmingham, that all federal judges were scalawaging, carpet bagging, integrating liars, and if one of those long-haired anti-war protestors lay down in front of his car he would run him over.
Although Wallace barely avoided the grave, he quickly forgot his promise to forego the national limelight and presidential urge. He was on a plane to Wisconsin the next day running for president in 1972. He campaigned nationwide for two years and had done surprisingly well in the northern Democratic primaries, especially Wisconsin and Maryland. However, it was in Maryland that a nut named Arthur Bremer gunned him down in a suburban parking lot. Wallace was shot several times, wounding his vital organs. The assassination attempt would have killed most people, but Wallace survived. However he was crippled and left to live in a wheelchair with devastating pain for the rest of his life.
The Maryland shooting may have ruined Wallace’s life as far as his health was concerned but the bullets saved his political life. He would have lost in 1974 but after the shooting the sympathy for Wallace was so strong nobody could have beaten him. Brewer, Baxley, and Beasley realized it and all backed off.
The 1974 race for governor became simply a coronation for Wallace, who would become governor of Alabama for a fourth four-year period.