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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George Wallace, July 15, 1974. Interview A-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Wallace appeals to alienated Americans

Wallace says that he cannot claim that his career has had a significant impact on American politics, though he lists a number of his successes. He adds that many Americans have essentially caught up to him: those who shunned him years ago now seek his advice, in part because he represents a majority of Americans who feel alienated from their government.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George Wallace, July 15, 1974. Interview A-0024. 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

First one to ask you is just how do you view your impact on Alabama politics and southern politics and national politics?
I think it's hard for any individual to point out or put his finger on any impact he has had, personally. In our representative form of GOV.ernment an individual represents a segment of the voters or a view point. And the view point and the people he represents has the impact. I don't think that I individually have had all that impact, because one person in our system, in my judgment, is not worthy of all that much attention. It just so happens that I've been the GOV.ernor of a state and that's been a good forum. Whereas many people have eloquently spoken more so than myself about matters that I've spoken of. But they were not in the GOV.ernor's office and therefore their viewpoint, which was in many instances the same as mine, didn't get as broad circulation and dessimination. I would say the people that feel as I do in Alabama and in the country have had broad, strong impact on affairs within this state and within this country. And I think they're having . . . the impact is even greater today in view of the fact that many of the people who years ago would say "I don't agree with anything he says" now will ask you "If you're in my state will you put in a good word for me." Or "Will you come speak to" . . . I've already been invited this fall to speak in some states way away from our part of the country for the ticket. As I was in 1972. I was invited to go, even by one GOV.ernor . . . called me on the phone. I was unable to go because of my physical condition. But I was asked. And maybe a few years beyond that I would have been asked not to come. So I would say that our administration here in Alabama and the people who supported it have had an impact on the industrial growth of the area, on the development of waterways, on the development of an educational system that today provides probably an easy enough opportunity at a minimal cost for higher education for all people, especially in low income groups than any other state in the union. With our comprehensive junior college and technical school program. The building of an additional medical school and two family physician programs at two other branches of our— one at the main University of Alabama and the other at the branch. And the other day the report came out we would be soon graduating 300 doctors a year instead of 100, as we were in 1970 when I became GOV.ernor that term. I think the impact of this administration here in the field of public health and the field of highway building, the field of industrial development and education has been great for all the people of our state. And at the same time we've maintained a very low per capita tax in Alabama. We have the lowest property taxes of probably any state in the union. An average $10,000 home costs today about $35-45 in taxes up to 50. $20,000 home anywhere from $75-100 maybe. Which is about $1,000 less than you'll find in many states in the union. I think the impact on national affairs has been that the people I represented have many folks in both parties talking about the things they wanted talked about for a long time. I think you all recognize that yourselves. I would say that they had the impact. I was only the instrument and their representative or their agent. What I'm saying is if I just got up by myself and talking to hear myself talk . . . if I hadn't had the following, then the impact would have been just the impact of one man talking. But I think it's had tremendous impact.
How would you characterize that following? What do they believe? Have their beliefs changed?
Well . . . .
You say you represent a certain segment. What do they believe?
I think they represent the majority viewpoint in the country. I think people have grown tired of big GOV.ernment. I feel that they feel that GOV.ernment has been pretty much aloof from them. I think they felt that about the Democratic party in 1972 . . . was just aloof from them. Was just foreign to them. They couldn't relate to it at all. So many things happen to them that they are opposed to. And I don't like to bring up busing because that's not the biggest issue or the only issue. It's a big issue in different places. But when Gallop polls show that 75-80% of the people of both races oppose this particular sort of school maneuver yet it's still forced on the people. They wonder why is it we always have to do what we don't want to do. Is it because a certain few in the country . . .? Do we have an elitist GOV.ernment that a few in the bureaucracy which is stronger, as I said, than the GOV.ernment itself. Stronger than the president and stronger than the Congress. They've decreed that it's good for the people to do certain things. And even though the people don't like to do it, they must do it because this super elite group is so determined. I think that's the way they feel. And they feel that the GOV.ernment's aloof. They've found the Democratic party in '72 adopting a platform that they did not relate with. The great middle class of our country that today is being probably subjected to the most abuse in the tax system of any group in the country. And if you ever destroy the middle class I think you destroy the group that defends your system and supports the system and holds the system together. And I think they're all recognizing that. Didn't you hear them all talk that way the other day to the Democratic chairman. Same thing I used to talk about. So I think that I represent a broad spectrum of people. In fact it turned out in the GOV.ernor's race that I represented a pretty broad spectrum of people of all races in this state.