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Gov. George Wallace's former wife dies

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  • Cornelia Wallace was in her late 60s
  • She was with Wallace when would-be assassin shot him in 1972
  • "She served as first lady during a very turbulent time," Gov. Bob Riley says
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(CNN) -- Cornelia Wallace, ex-wife of four-time Alabama Gov. George Wallace, has died, the governor's office announced. She was in her late 60s.

The cause of death was not immediately known.

"She served as first lady during a very turbulent time and our thoughts and prayers are with her family today," Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and wife Patsy said in a statement.

Cornelia Wallace first met her husband at a party in the Alabama governor's mansion when her uncle, James Folsom, was governor and she was only eight years old, Time Magazine reported in 1972. She was 19 years younger than Wallace.

At the time, Wallace was a state legislator married to his first wife, Lurleen, who also served as Alabama governor.

The then Cornelia Ellis went to the semifinals of the Miss Alabama contest before becoming the star of the Cypress Gardens water ski show in Florida, Time reported. She married John Snively III, a millionaire whose family once owned the Gardens.

The couple had two sons but divorced seven years later.

After Lurleen Wallace died of cancer in 1968, George Wallace got back in touch with Cornelia Ellis Snively and they married in 1971. The following year, Cornelia Wallace was beside her husband when he was shot in a 1972 assassination attempt in a Maryland parking lot.

George and Cornelia Wallace divorced after his failed bid for the U.S. presidency in 1976.

George Wallace died in Montgomery on September 13, 1998.

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