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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Arthur Shores, July 17, 1974. Interview A-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

George Wallace as political opportunist

Shores explains that Operation New Birmingham supported George Wallace in his failed 1958 Democratic gubernatorial primary bid against John Patterson. Shores traces Wallace's positions from his loss to Patterson, his victory in his next attempt as a staunch anti-segregationist, and his most recent incarnation as a kinder politician as he seeks black votes. He thinks political expediency motivates Wallace just as it motivates those African Americans who support him.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Arthur Shores, July 17, 1974. Interview A-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK BASS:
Did the group support George Wallace in 1958?
ARTHUR SHORES:
No.
JACK BASS:
Against Patterson?
ARTHUR SHORES:
No. In 1958? Oh yeah, against Patterson. Yes, yes.
JACK BASS:
How was Wallace viewed at that time?
ARTHUR SHORES:
Well, he was viewed as a liberal at that time and has been. In Jim Folsom's administration he was. . . . And as you know, Big Jim was considered one of our most liberal governors. And he was, I understand, Jim's floor leader. I tried a case before Gov Wallace when he was circuit judge many years ago before he went into the legislature. And I've never been before a judge who was as cordial and as sociable as Wallace. And I'm sure you've heard that when he ran against Patterson there were relatively no black votes that amount to anything and the candidate who could holler nigger the loudest and promise to maintain the status quo was the candidate who was elected. And Patterson just outdid Wallace on that score. And I'm sure you've heard that when Wallace ran the second time one of his opening statements was that he'd been out segged before and he wouldn't be again. So he went on that theme and as a result he gathered all the members of the Klan, the white citizens council and that sort of thing and was elected. And he followed through. He promised to maintain the status quo. Segregation. Today, tomorrow and forever. And that put him into office. But now he says that times have charged, and they have. So he's seeking to portray a different image now.
JACK BASS:
Why do you think he's trying to portray a different image?
ARTHUR SHORES:
Well, I mean it's politically expedient. The same as it was when he was elected as governor. You've got a large number of black votes and he's seeking apparently and has sought, heretofore, to portray a national image where he feels would help his chances for national office. So it's just political expedience.
JACK BASS:
Do you think he's changed personally?
ARTHUR SHORES:
Well, I couldn't say. To tell the truth, I wouldn't say, although he's the very epitome of racism from his attitude apparently through the last several years. But if he were sincere to begin with as a liberal, I would assume that he feels now that he can go back to the stance that he once had. In other words, politicians, as you've probably been able to ascertain, cater to what their constituency wanted. We had a Congressman here. Very liberal. Luther Pat [?] . At the time the anti-poll tax bill was before Congress. He voted against it. I mean he voted against the poll tax and for the anti-poll tax bill. He came up for re-election and he was defeated. So, I mean it's just political expediency that has motivated individuals to do what they feel their constituency want done. Otherwise, you'll find a few that will say "Well, from a conscience standpoint, I will not do thus and so." But it means that they commit political suicide, unless there's a chance of winning over their constituency.
JACK BASS:
Did you support Wallace this past time?
ARTHUR SHORES:
No I didn't.
JACK BASS:
What was your reaction to those blacks that did, who did openly endorse . . .
ARTHUR SHORES:
Well, the blacks who openly endorsed Wallace . . . again was political expediency. The mayors of Pritchard and Tuskegee. I believe the branch down at Greene county. Well, it was an opportunity. . . . Wallace is the governor of this state, and he had millions of dollars in revenue sharing and opportunities to help these cities and he has actually done it. During the funds being distributed on this LEPA, law enforcement, Tuskegee got a nice slice. And I understand he was instrumental in helping them to get in some industry. So you can see they've done the same thing that he did prior.