Controversial Southern politician George Wallace was born in Clio, Alabama, into a lower-middle-class family. In 1942, he graduated with a degree in law from the University of Alabama, going on to serve in World War II. From 1953 to 1959, he served as a circuit court judge. Wallace entered politics as a segregationalist Democrat, running successfully for the governorship of Alabama. In his first inaugural speech, he pledged to fight for "segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever."
In 1963, he achieved a kind of dubious immortality as he stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to block the admission of two black students, in direct defiance of President Kennedy's desegregation order.
Wallace gave in after the state National Guard was federalized. He also opposed desegregated local schools, although he allowed them in the face of a federal court order. In 1965, Wallace tried to prevent the march from Selma to Montgomery. Three years later in 1968 , he campaigned for the Presidency, running as an Independent on a platform that emphasized states' rights and continued US involvement in Vietnam. Wallace received 45 electoral votes and almost 10 million popular votes. While he was running for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1972, he was shot and partially paralyzed.
During the 1970's and 1980's, he began to rethink his earlier positions on race relations, and became more conciliatory towards and more credible to black voters.
Wallace holds the record for serving longest as governor of Alabama: 1963-67, 1971-75; 1975-79 and 1983-87. He was also a powerful force behind the scenes when his first wife, Lurleen Wallace, was governor from 1967-1971.