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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

George Wallace moves away from race-baiting in 1970

LeMaistre remembers George Wallace's 1970 gubernatorial primary victory over incumbent Albert Brewer, and the political transformation that won him some black support as he sought the presidency in 1972.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. 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

ALLEN J. GOING:
Of course the gubernatorial election of 1970 was supposed to have been one of the most vicious, one of the dirtiest, mud-slinging ones-between Brewer and Wallace. I remember reading that Brewer really got pretty open support from the Republicans and Nixon.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Well, that's an example of what Sam Rayburn meant when he said, "If you just do these things that are unusual, you just teach your own people bad habits." Brewer was probably finished as a politician as soon as he took that money from the Republicans to run against Wallace in the Democratic primary. But it's true; he got a sizeable contribution to his campaign, and I don't know whether it was funds that were raised by the "Creep" group in trying to perpetuate Nixon in office or where it went or where it actually came from. But I'm under the impression that Maurice Stans was the one who raised the money which later came to Brewer. He's also been the treasurer of the Committee to Reelect the President.
ALLEN J. GOING:
"The Creep" group. And of course by 1972 Wallace was pinning his hopes on the Democratic nomination.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Well he was campaigning for the Democratic nomination when he was shot in Maryland, just outside the District.
ALLEN J. GOING:
By that time there was less racist appeal and more populist sort of appeal.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
As soon as Wallace finished that first term, he began to talk about the shortcomings of the Federal government—"Not a dime's worth of difference between the two parties." And he was pointing out all the things that he thought were wrong that were brought about by the "pointy headed professors in Washington that couldn't park their bicycles straight." And he talked about what he thought were constitutional issues; whether they were or not, I don't know. Wallace was not what you would call a high minded candidate, but he would seize on demands that constitutional rights be given to everybody including folks in Alabama. And that's where his "Stand up for Alabama" was being used.
ALLEN J. GOING:
And by the early 1970s you had some blacks being elected, and Wallace saw the potentiality of black voting in that thing.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Oh yes, as a matter of fact, until this past election, Alabama had the greatest number of elected blacks in office of any state in the country. It seems to me that Mississippi or Louisiana one either came up with somewhat similar numbers or greater numbers last time.