|Governor George C. Wallace, D, Alabama, 1959-67-1971-79-|
Was Governor George Wallace ever the most powerful politician in America? I have my doubts, but he probably was the most powerful Southern governor during his time as far as the amount of power he had in his state. The Kennedy Administration at least in the early 1960s didn’t know how to deal with him, because President Kennedy believed he needed the South and even Alabama to get reelected in 1964. But also wanted to pass civil rights laws that Governor Wallace was obviously against. A horrible innocent with civil rights marchers being killed by law enforcement in 1963, brought President Kennedy to the point where he believed he had to get behind the civil rights movement in full. And makes his great civil rights speech to the country in the summer of 1963.
But the Johnson Administration knew how to deal with him which was by enforcing the Federal court orders and even doing it in public and making the Governor look weak by comparison. And of course that famous Lyndon Johnson treatment where he brings the Governor into the Oval Office and has Wallace saying that “if he stayed any longer LBJ would’ve had him coming out in favor of civil rights”. Governor Wallace was a threat, but how powerful he was is at best an open question. Because the Federal Government whipped in every court battle. Wallace was a threat to the Democratic Party in the sense that there were Democrats back then who believed they still needed the South to get reelected and gain more political power.
And I mean there were Anglo-Saxon Southerners people whose families came from Britain, that powerful Democrats believed they had to have to get reelected and to gain more power. Lyndon Johnson our civil rights President, was a strong supporter of civil rights and equal rights, until he became President. And made civil rights part of his carrying out President Kennedy’s agenda and fulfilling his legacy as part of his own administration. So there were still Democrats in the 1960s and early 1970s, who believed they had to have racist Southerners as part of their electoral coalition. And these voters were George Wallace voters in the 1960s and 1970s. So in that sense George Wallace was very powerful in the South, because of all the Southern Democrats that he represented.
John Pilger: George Wallace- The Most Powerful Politician in America- 1974