Every so often, a bit of bad or disappointing news comes across my desk to shake me from the torpor of writer’s block. Yesterday afternoon, I was informed by a friend that Peggy Wallace Kennedy, daughter of George Wallace, has written a book which attempts to reconcile the loving man she knew as Daddy with the “hateful rhetoric” of Dixie’s last great political defender. This is a quintessentially Boomer viewpoint: in the minds of the members of the Worst Generation Ever, it is essentially impossible for them to believe that a good man can have beliefs which society has retroactively deemed verboten. It is beyond impossible for the Boomer to consider the possibility that which is forbidden is fundamentally correct. Such is why Peggy needs to engage in this asinine reconciliation project at all.
Needless to say, I shan’t bother to read her self-serving tripe, but it did get the old cogs in my head turning. Just who was George Wallace?
What is beyond dispute is that Wallace was a champion of the little man and of states’ rights. I’ll let the man speak for himself, from his 1963 inauguration speech, the first of four terms he’d win as Alabama’s chief executive:
“It is very appropriate then that from this Cradle of the Confederacy, this very Heart of the Great Anglo-Saxon Southland, that today we sound the drum for freedom as have our generations of forebears before us done, time and time again through history. Let us rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South. In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny…”
Everyone remembers the bit that comes after this mellifluous lead-in, because that is the image that the powers that be seek to drive into the hearts and minds of every last Southerner alive. It is necessary for the Multiracial Tolerance Machine™ to paint the motivations of Wallace and everyone who agreed with him as fueled by hate. I was probably 10 years old when I encountered the snippet, and like so many others, reacted as conditioned to. I’m not proud of that fact, but I’m far from the only one. Hell, I’m probably not the only one reading this article who once profoundly misunderstood Wallace. Mea Culpa.
It wouldn’t be until many years later that I read the text in its entirety. Needless to say, one cannot hear five minutes of the speech and realize that it is so much more than “segregation now, segregation tomorruh, segregation forevuh.” It is perhaps the greatest clarion call to the Southern people this side of 1860, reminding us who and what we are and what our birth right is.
“…There was no money, no food and no hope of either. But our grandfathers bent their knee only in church and bowed their head only to God. Not for a single instant did they ever consider the easy way of federal dictatorship and amalgamation in return for fat bellies. They fought. They dug sweet roots from the ground with their bare hands and boiled them in iron pots … they gathered poke salad from the woods and acorns from the ground. They fought. They followed no false doctrine . . . they knew what they wanted … and they fought for freedom! They came up from their knees in the greatest display of sheer nerve, grit and guts that has ever been set down in the pages of written history . . . and they won!”
Truly powerful stuff. If you haven’t done so, I strongly recommend you watch the video right after you finish reading this.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with segregation. In direct contradiction of the lies of his detractors, Wallace forcefully delivers the case that the battle lines are freedom versus federal tyranny. Of liberty versus communism. Of Christianity versus atheism. Of good versus evil. Nowhere does he invoke hatred of the Negro as is commonly charged. One need not hate a people to not want congress with them. But the white man, particularly the white, Southern, Christian man cannot be privy to such jealously guarded truth. It is a priori knowledge in our brave new world that hatred is bad and that any idea that is motivated by hatred is therefore also bad. Thus, any person or idea which runs counter to the narrative is portrayed as hateful. Legitimate opposition must be nipped in the bud, lest the Wizard’s curtain be ripped off and he is shown for the power-hungry charlatan that he is.
But was this the real Wallace? His main biographer, Dan T. Carter, posits that the text of the speech more closely mirrors the beliefs of Asa Carter, a former Klansman and future Hollywood writer (how’s that for a career change?). No doubt, Carter could turn one heck of a phrase, but I do not see George Wallace as an empty suit parroting words he does not agree with nor understand.
I don’t buy Carter’s contention, and it goes back to what I was saying above: it is only if one accepts the accusation that Wallace is motivated by hatred that one can pawn off what he says as the words and beliefs of another. Carter knows he is being disingenuous, but most of his readers have not or will not read the text. Indeed, Wallace decries racism in a manner which would greatly irritate many a reader of this blog and stun the average normie: he notes that institutional and national racism was a fundamental weakness of the Nazi state and a major part of its eventual failure.
Rather, Wallace posits that “separate but equal” allows for positive growth for all. It is a simple fact that forced integration at the point of the sword does nothing but create animus between peoples, the very hatred that the sword was purportedly employed to end in the first place. I’d call it ironic, but destruction of Southern society was always the goal here. The leftists knew what they were doing.
But what of Wallace before 1962? As a 29-year-old delegate to the 1948 Democratic National Convention, Wallace declined to participate in the Dixiecrat walkout in support of Strom Thurmond. He would later contend that this was done for political reasons. Namely that as a young man with lofty ambitions and no real record to his name, he did not think he could burn bridges with the Democratic party and have a future.
An ex post facto justification that, on its face, makes sense enough, though it is far from anywhere near as inspiring as “The Speech.” This brand of politics as usual invites the question of what other stances might Wallace have taken for political, rather than ideological, reasons. In his 1958 campaign, Wallace was seen as the moderate Democratic candidate. He opposed the Civil Rights push on states’ rights grounds (which does enhance his credibility on that score), but he was not the rabble-rouser who would stand at the schoolhouse door in Tuscaloosa to block access to negro students.
Proponents of the idea that the adamantly pro-segregationalist Wallace was a facade point to the fact that he received the NAACP’s endorsement in 1958, but I contend that this is largely overblown. Before the polarity switch of the white Southern vote, there was little (read: zero) chance a Republican was going to win a statewide election. The NAACP picked what it deemed to be the least bad option. Wallace was in favor of Jim Crow, he just did not use the federal threats against it to whip his supporters into a fervor like he would with great success a mere four years later.
There is an apocryphal quote attributed to George from this time period, in which he states that he had been “out-niggered,” by his opponent and that it would never happen again. Namely, his opponent had done better at scaring the white voters of the spectre which loomed over their heads. Wallace had painted this spectre (accurately) as a federal one. John Patterson, who beat him, made it much more overtly racial. Wallace saw the negro as a blunt object in the hands of a tyrannical government looking to club the life out of Dixie. A life that the Federals viewed the Southland had no right to after it refused to die in 1865. Wallace was and is right.
An aside, if you’ll permit me: while it is true that Patterson defeated Wallace once, no one, save Alabamian historians know his name. We all know George Wallace. This is a parable of dissident politics. It’s cathartic to shout “nigger,” and “jew,” and all the rest. But when the short-lived rise is over (and it was VERY short lived in the case of the Alt-Right), no one remembers you. Nuance makes the enemy fear you. Eloquence makes the enemy slander your name. Rectitude makes it so that society browbeats your daughter into thinking that she must waste 300 pages of blather in an attempt to understand how her daddy could be both a loving father and an EBEL RACISSSSS. Not that I’m convinced George Wallace was that, but like most mindless Boomers, Peggy Wallace sure thinks he was.
Wallace would vehemently deny that those words came from his mouth, and I’m inclined to believe him. He makes the rhetorical point time and again in The Speech and in others that while he vehemently opposes integration and Civil Rights, it is the Yankee government that he views as the enemy, not blacks. The simple fact is that a separate society was as good for them as it was for us: denied access to white owned business, they created their own to provide the goods and services that they needed. Businesses that quickly went under when exposed to competition from the larger, more established white firms after 1964.
Blah blah segregated schooling. I think it is beyond dispute, to anyone who rationally considers the record of the last 60 years, that no amount of funding or access to integrated schools can end the disparity between black and white academic achievement. There’s something larger at play here (cough, IQ, cough) and anyone who says otherwise is selling you something. Probably more federal tyranny.
Crime, drug use, one parent households, increased poverty. These are the wages of integration. Sure, it makes Boomers feel better that they fought to end something “objectively evil.” But in 1950, black families were together. Black men weren’t killing each other to the tune of 8,000 a year. And, don’t get me started on the interracial crime which has skyrocketed. According to the liberals, we white Southerners deserve to be killed and have our women raped by the integrated blacks because of lynch mobs. Never mind that it takes a mere six years of black on white murder to match the NAACP’s dubious assertion of 3,500 lynchings from 1882-1968. Even assuming that there is absolutely no ideological motivation at play in their statistical methodology (and I’ve got a bridge for sale if you do take the NAACP at its word), that’s 40 per year over almost a century. Or about one month’s worth of black on white homicide today. The juice, some banal idea of freedom and equality, hasn’t been worth the squeeze for either party.
I got a bit sidetracked in my examination of Wallace. What I’m getting at is that I think he saw all this coming, and did his level best to stop it. He exhorted Alabamians of all walks of life and color to work to better their own communities and in so doing, create a better Alabama. Hardly the rhetoric of a deranged bigot. And a bit too nuanced to be a politically motivated lie. Rather, it sounds like a man who honestly loved his state and his people and recognized that every time the Federals have come knocking with promises of improvement, the South has gotten the fuzzy end of the lollypop.
I will devote a small amount of space to Wallace’s later political career, because it is worth mentioning, though I find it more indicative of the changes in the Democratic party than in George Wallace. In his final term, he appointed numerous black officials to office, but I contend that this, much more than his 1962 campaign, was done for reasons of politics than of firm belief. Yes, there are the stories of his apologies to various figures he had “wronged” over the years. But there weren’t enough white voters in Alabama in 1982 willing to vote Democrat in order to get Wallace over the line. The shift was already in full swing. He needed the black vote and he told them what they wanted to hear to get it. At least, that’s what I choose to believe. If a bullet didn’t make him back down, I don’t think anything would, except his own ambition.
I suppose the final question one must answer in seeking to define The Fightin’ Little Judge would be his late life renunciation of his political career. I’m referring to a certain 60 minutes interview where a mumbling, largely incoherent Wallace repeated that he no longer supported segregation. He was far less cagey about it than Strom Thurmond, who never expressly repudiated his past stance but rather adroitly danced around the issue whenever asked, would be in his later years, likely due to diminished capacity. I have long thought that interview was a man seeing the end of his life rapidly approaching seeking to make peace with his children and say in front of the world what their consciences needed to hear. News of this new book only strengthens my conviction as to George Wallace’s motivations on that television program.
And yet, all of this might be bunk. I might be completely and totally wrong. Maybe George Wallace was a secret supporter of Civil Rights all along, and took the moderate stance in the 40s and 50s out of political expediency, went hardcore in the 60s and 70s as a means to power–while simultaneously giving Lyndon Johnson the cover he needed to ram the Civil Rights legislation through–and then went back to his natural beliefs in the 80s when it was no longer political suicide to do so. It seems far-fetched, but hey, we’re talking about the motivations of a dead man. None of us would or could know, at least on this side of the hereafter.
Ultimately though, it does not matter what Wallace did or did not believe at the time he uttered the words. He spoke them. He exhorted Alabama and the rest of the South to take another stand against federal tyranny, no matter how long the odds. His speech rings through the ages, even almost 60 years after he gave it. If anything, it is become more prescient as the same cudgel that was used to beat the South into integrating blacks is now being used to force us to accept the murdering of babies and homosexual sodomy that calls itself marriage. It is the godless government of a godless empire. I’ll close with one last quotation from Wallace. One which makes me a believer in George, regardless of what he said in later life and regardless of what his leftist biographer says. No man who sees the truth of our political struggle in these terms can be anything but an ally and a fellow traveler, at least in my view.
“This government must assume more and more police powers and we find we are become government-fearing people . . . not God-fearing people. We find we have replaced faith with fear . . . and though we may give lip service to the Almighty . . in reality, government has become our god. It is, therefore, a basically ungodly government and its appeal to the pseudo-intellectual and the politician is to change their status from servant of the people to master of the people . . . to play at being God . . . without faith in God . . . and without the wisdom of God. It is a system that is the very opposite of Christ for it feeds and encourages everything degenerate and base in our people as it assumes the responsibilities that we ourselves should assume. Its pseudo-liberal spokesmen and some Harvard advocates have never examined the logic of its substitution of what it calls “human rights” for individual rights, for its propaganda play on words has appeal for the unthinking. Its logic is totally material and irresponsible as it runs the full gamut of human desires . . . including the theory that everyone has voting rights without the spiritual responsibility of preserving freedom.”
What was in 1963 a warning is in 2019 a historical recitation of what has occurred over the past 56 years. Trent Lott wasn’t wrong when he said that the nation would have been better off with Strom in ’48. So too would it have been with Wallace in ’68 or ’72.