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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George Wallace, July 15, 1974. Interview A-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Shared sense of persecution motivates politics

"I try to be a man of the people," Wallace says. He claims that if he is a populist, his connection to the people stems from his shared sense of persecution by so-called eastern interests. He describes how his tax policy reflects this sense.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George Wallace, July 15, 1974. Interview A-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WALTER DE VRIES:
Can I change the topic a little bit? You're described as a populist. What does that mean to you?
GOV. GEORGE WALLACE:
I don't know. You all . . . you newspaper folks call me a populist. I never called myself publicly a populist. I don't know what the term exactly means. Its according to how you use it. I try to be a man of the people. I recognize like most southerners, that, you know, we sort of felt victims and oppressed by eastern interests in the olden days and we sold our agricultural products on an unprotected market and bought goods on a protected market when we was purely agrarian. We sort of resented all of that because we thought folks made money off of us and we were left holding the bag. I always sort of felt that that wasn't right and I reckon any politician would say a man of the people—that's what a populist means.
WALTER DE VRIES:
How about on economic matters?
GOV. GEORGE WALLACE:
Huh?
WALTER DE VRIES:
On economic matters what does it mean to you?
GOV. GEORGE WALLACE:
Well. . . . When you start talking about liberality and populism, exactly what do you mean. You have to sort of go it item by item.
WALTER DE VRIES:
How about in taxes?
GOV. GEORGE WALLACE:
How about in taxes? Well, my history of legislation was that I fought the sales tax in '51. Led the fight against it. In 1963 I introduced a package of bills that actually fell more on big interest for education. But the legislature kicked them aside and passed another sales tax. 4%. Which is one of the lowest in the country in Alabama, by the way. And I reluctantly signed it on the last day because I had spoken out against it. But it was either that or no money for education in that biennium, which was so badly needed. So to those who say Wallace put a sales tax on, two cents of it was on when I went to the legislature and I fought the third cent, which is headlined in the papers of '51, as a leader of the fight against it. And I reluctantly signed the 4% when there was no other funds available through legislative sources. I think that the sales tax can get too high, but I think the most regressive tax in the country is the income tax at the national level. And the social security program is becoming regressive. I'm not against the social security program, but some way's got to be found to make it cheaper on the working man who is having to bear the brunt of the burden. That's where in . . . I think the exemption of institutionalized property, estimated by many to be as high as $152 billion, along with all the exemptions of foundations such as Rockeller's, Ford and Carnegie's which you all are doing this under. You all have got a grant from the Ford and Rockefellers. They don't pay any taxes. So you're working for two foundations that get by scot free. And they pay you money to come interview red neck GOV.ernors. And they don't pay any taxes on it. While the red necks have to pay.