George Wallace dies
Former Alabama governor made 2 strong bids for president
MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CNN) -- Former Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace, the fiery populist and one-time segregationist who made two serious bids for the American presidency before being felled by a would-be assassin's bullet, died Sunday. He was 79.
Wallace died at Jackson Hospital in Montgomery after suffering septic shock from what hospital officials described as an "overwhelming" bacterial blood infection. He was admitted to the hospital Thursday morning with breathing difficulties and high blood pressure.
The former four-term governor had had a series of medical maladies since his legs were paralyzed in an assassination attempt in 1972. He also suffered from Parkinson's disease.
Wallace was hospitalized briefly in June and again in July, both times for respiratory aliments.
"Gov. Wallace has shown tremendous courage for many years in living an active life despite his pain and injury," current Alabama Gov. Fob James said. "This example is an inspiration to us all. Gov. Wallace now rests with God and with history."
Former President Jimmy Carter issued a statement, praising Wallace for changing his long-held views on race and "his courage in the face of illness and physical handicap."
"With the death of George Wallace, Alabama and the American South have lost one of our favorites sons," Carter said. "His political career both helped to define and to reflect the political life of our region."
Born in 1919 in Clio, a small town in the "wire grass country" of southeastern Alabama, Wallace made his mark early in state Democratic politics, becoming a judge at age 33 and making a bid for governor at 39.
He lost that 1958 gubernatorial race to a candidate endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, whose views were to the right of him on race issues.
Four years later, running on a platform of maximum resistance to federal attempts to end segregation in Alabama, Wallace won the governorship.
The 'stand in the schoolhouse door'
He drew national attention in 1963 when he confronted federal authorities at the University of Alabama in Montgomery when they tried to enroll two black students. His so-called "stand in the schoolhouse door" made him a regional political force.
Wallace briefly pursued the presidency in 1964. Barred by law from seeking another term as governor in 1966, his wife Lurleen ran, and won, in his stead.
In 1968, Wallace made a third-party bid for the presidency, garnering more than 13 percent of the vote and carrying five Southern states. The defection of southern Democrats helped sink the party's nominee, Hubert Humphrey, and made possible the election of Richard Nixon.
In 1972, Wallace again sought the Democratic nomination. He moved beyond his base in the South and made inroads in northern industrial states, winning the Michigan primary. But his quest ended when he was shot and paralyzed during a campaign stop in Maryland.
Wallace, who had been re-elected governor in 1970, continued to run his state from a wheelchair until he left office in 1978. He was elected to another term as governor in 1982, winning support among black voters after renouncing his previous segregationist views.
Ill health forced him to retire from the public stage in 1986.
"I bid you a fond an affectionate farewell," he said.
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