George Wallace Segregation Speech





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Published on May 7, 2012

George Wallace's 1963 Inaugural Address was delivered January 14, 1963, following his election as Governor of Alabama.Wallace at this time in his career was an ardent segregationist, and as Governor he challenged the attempts of the federal government to enforce laws prohibiting segregation in Alabama's public schools and other institutions. The speech is most famous for the phrase "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" which became a rallying cry for those opposed to integration and the Civil Rights Movement. Wallace would later in life apologize for his unabashed racism and segregationist policies.

Wallace's new stance on racial issues became apparent in 1959, when he was the only local circuit court judge who refused to turn over voting records to a federal commission investigating discrimination against black voters.[3] Threatened with jail, Wallace eventually complied and released the registration documents; however his defiance earned him notoriety and signaled his new political position. Opposition to black voter registration efforts would become a part of his platform when Wallace ran for governor in 1962.

During that campaign Wallace blamed integration for increases in crime and unemployment, as well as racial disturbances in other states. Asa Carter, founder of a local Ku Klux Klan organization, was hired as a speechwriter for Wallace's campaign. Carter became a key member of Wallace's staff, resulting in "a new, fiery, hard-hitting style of campaigning". Due to his connection to acts of racial violence, Carter was kept in the background during the campaign; however his speeches proved to be popular among Wallace supporters. Wallace's racial politicking and support of segregation resonated with Alabama voters and in 1962 he was elected governor, receiving more votes than any previous Alabama gubernatorial candidate.

After his election, Wallace wanted to make it clear he intended to keep his campaign promise to fight against integration. Carter spent several weeks writing the inaugural address, and on January 14, 1963 after taking the oath of office Wallace delivered it from the portico of the Alabama State Capitol. This was the exact place where Jefferson Davis had been sworn in as the President of the Confederate States of America, a fact which was pointedly noted in the speech.

Journalist Bob Ingram recalls that when Wallace first saw the "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" line which Carter had written for his inaugural address, Wallace was pleased, saying "I like that line. I like it, and I'm going to use it."However, later in life Wallace changed his views on segregation and came to regret his famous phrase, calling it his "biggest mistake"

"I didn't write those words about segregation now, tomorrow and forever. I saw them in the speech written for me and planned to skip over them. But the wind-chill factor was 5 below zero when I gave that speech. I started reading just to get it over and read those words without thinking. I have regretted it all my life."

Regardless of his feelings at the time, the sentiments expressed in his inaugural address were blamed for creating "a climate that allowed for violent reprisals against those seeking to end racial discrimination." Wallace's defiant endorsement of segregation proved to be his most memorable piece of political rhetoric and demonstrated the fierce opposition facing the Civil Rights Movement.


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