Title: Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358.
Identifier: A-0358
Interviewer: Going, Allen J.
Interviewee: LeMaistre, George A.
Subjects: Alabama--Politics and government    Democratic Party (Ala.)    Civil rights--Alabama    
Extent: 00:00:01
Abstract:  George LeMaistre entered the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa in 1930, shortly after the stock market crash of 1929. Three years later, he tried to set up a practice in a tough economic environment and soon found himself teaching law, then joining naval intelligence. He worked out of Louisiana as part of a relatively disorganized defense effort until the end of the war, when he returned to teaching in Tuscaloosa. He continued to teach law even as he moved into a banking career, eventually becoming the chairman of the F.D.I.C. LeMaistre died in 1994.

In this interview, LeMaistre recalls his experiences in World War II, including the Navy's efforts to combat extensive torpedo submarine activity in the Gulf of Mexico. He describes some of the personal relationships and minutiae of Alabama politics, including the roles of politicos like Foots Clement, Senators Lister Hill and John Sparkman, and Governors Bibb Graves and Frank Dixon, among others. He dwells on the career of George Wallace, describing the gubernatorial primary loss that convinced Wallace to use racist appeals and Wallace's efforts to exploit the integration struggle for political gain. LeMaistre also considers at length the role of race and civil rights in Alabama politics and describes integration at the University of Alabama.

LeMaistre believes that racism remained beneath the surface in Alabama until the mid-1960s. Until then, southern politicians dragged their feet on civil rights, but rarely exploited racial antagonisms to win votes, or spoke openly about opposing legislation for racial reasons. Of course, by the mid-1960s, as the civil rights movement was escalating, Alabama was experiencing spasms of deadly violence. LeMaistre positions himself as an observer, only inserting himself into the story when he describes his contributions to efforts to craft a nonviolent integration strategy in Alabama. This interview offers a detailed and thorough account of the story of race and politics in that state in the civil rights era.