GEORGE WALLACE AND THE "NEGRO
George Wallace v. Albert Brewer, Democratic Primary,
Governor, Alabama, 1970
This was the dirtiest campaign I've ever observed. If it takes that to
be governor, then I'll pass it up.
All the powers of incumbency couldn't save Governor Albert Brewer of Alabama in 1970. He lost the Democratic primary runoff to former governor and presidential candidate George Wallace. The man who stood in the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama in 1963 and said, "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever," emerged victorious in a battle between the state's racist past and its emerging moderate middle. In 1970, the past won.
George Wallace ran what turned out to be one of the last openly racist political campaigns in this country. In Alabama in 1970, you didn't need code words and double meanings to play on racial hatreds—you just said what was on your mind. "You know, 300,000 nigger voters is mighty hard to overcome," he would tell voters in small towns at campaign rallies!1 It went downhill from there.
Wallace was first elected governor in 1962 and served a four-year term. At that time, the Alabama constitution prevented serving consecutive terms as governor. Wallace and his legislative allies tried to push through an amendment to the state constitution allowing successive four-year terms, but it failed.