American History TV continues to reair C-SPAN's history series “The Contenders,” which features profiles of key figures who ran for president and lost, but changed political history. This week, we focus on the life and career of George Wallace.
From childhood, George Wallace wanted to be a politician, and he officially became one when he was appointed as one of Alabama’s Assistant Attorneys General in 1945. He went on to serve Alabama in the state legislature, as Judge, and as Governor. He became a national figure during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, with his outspoken, defiant pro-segregation stance. This lead to his first run for president in 1964, with an unsuccessful attempt to win the Democratic Party’s nomination. In 1968 he ran as a third-party candidate on the American Independent Party ticket, appeared on the ballot in all 50 states, and received 46 electoral votes and 13.5% of the popular vote in an election in which Richard Nixon outpolled Hubert Humphrey by just over 500,00 votes nationwide. He unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for president two additional times, in 1972 and 1976.
Author Dan T. Carter called Wallace "the most influential loser" in 20th-century U.S. politics; and though he never reached the presidency, George Wallace changed American political history.