Stand Up for Alabama: Governor George Wallace

Stand Up for Alabama: Governor George Wallace

Stand Up for Alabama: Governor George Wallace

Stand Up for Alabama: Governor George Wallace

Synopsis

Whereas other studies have focused on George Wallace's career as a national figure, Stand Up for Alabama provides a detailed, comprehensive, and analytical study of Wallace's political life that emphasizes his activities and their impact within the state of Alabama. Jeff Frederick answers two fundamental questions: What was George Wallace's impact on the state of Alabama? Why did Alabamians continue to embrace him over a twenty-five year period? Using a variety of sources to document the state's performance in areas including mental health, education, conservation, prisons, and industrial development, Frederick answers question number one. He cites comparisons between Alabama and both peer states in the South and national averages. Wallace's policies improved the state, but only in relation to Alabama's past, not in relation to peer states in the region or national averages. As a result, energy was expended but little progress was made.

To answer the second question, Frederick uses the words of Alabamians themselves through oral history, correspondence, letters to the editor, and other sources. Alabamians, white and eventually black, supported Wallace because race was but one of his appeals. Stand Up for Alabama shows that Wallace connected to Alabamians at a gut level, reminding them of their history and memory, championing their causes on the stump, and soothing their concerns about their place in the region and the nation.

Jeff Frederick examines the development of policy during the Wallace administrations and documents relationships with his constituents in ways that go beyond racial politics. He also analyzes the connections between Wallace's career and Alabamians' understanding of their history, sense of morality, and class system. "Stand up for Alabama" was the governor's campaign slogan.

Excerpt

In many important ways, Alabama is one of the best places on earth to live. Few states possess as much natural beauty. Its lakes and rivers teem with fish, and its lush pine and hardwood forests are full of wildlife. Alabama is among a rare fraternity of states that feature both beaches and mountains. You can travel the world and not find a sweeter group of people. People still pull over out of respect for a funeral procession and if you have a flat tire you may be more likely to get help in Alabama than just about anywhere else I have ever been. Fast food does not exist in the Heart of Dixie; people engage in conversations and ask about your day and your kin even if it makes you wait a little longer for a cheeseburger. No matter where you are, a church is nearby. And the smell of fried chicken, as Johnny Cash sang about, is the smell of Sunday morning coming down. Dinner on the grounds is still a regular tradition across the state, and if you like greens cooked with bacon fat, fresh corn and tomatoes, homemade cornbread, sweet tea, and peach cobbler, the fare available in Alabama is world class. They play a little college football in the state too.

The essential goodness of so many in the state, black and white, rich but mostly poor, city and country, makes it difficult to reconcile the state's longstanding reputation. The education provided to the state's citizens has historically been far inferior to the education received anywhere else in America. Prisons, mental health facilities, and other state-run institutions have often faced federal scrutiny for failing to meet minimum standards. Most people in Alabama make less money than folks who live elsewhere in the country, and as of 2006, nothing in the offing suggests that is about to change. And being undereducated and poor in Alabama has usually been a life sentence. Over time, the state's politicians have done little to bring the state up to national averages. The history of Alabamians, then, is a history written in poverty, hard work, calloused hands, and weathered faces.

Tucked in the midst of this goodness and poverty is a legacy of racial dis-

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