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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 >>

Civil rights would have come without legal interference

Wallace offers a somewhat positive assessment of Lyndon Johnson's presidency, although he objected to some of the legislation Johnson advanced because he felt that it targeted only southern states. He thinks that African Americans would have gained civil rights eventually without legislation.

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

JACK BASS:
How do you assess Lyndon Johnson as a president? He's the last southern to be elected president.
GOV. GEORGE WALLACE:
Of course, Lyndon, you know, called himself a westerner.
JACK BASS:
Well, depended upon his context, I think.
GOV. GEORGE WALLACE:
And it's hard to characterize anybody, but Lyndon was a very able man. And of course he had a lovely family. His wife is one of the finest you ever met. And of course I was very much opposed to some of the things that he did. In fact some of the attitudes in some of the speeches I made were copies of his out of the Congressional record on some of the legislation. But Lyndon Johnson wanted to serve this country well and he wanted to do the right thing. I believe he was sincere in his attitude about helping all people. I think the war worried him to death. Because I've been in the White House when he was extremely shaken about the matter because it was a situation that no one hardly knew what to do about. And he was very concerned about it. I think it hastened his death.
JACK BASS:
Well he had the Civil Rights Act in '64 and the Voting Rights Act in '65 in his term as president, both of which have had a tremendous impact in the whole south. Alabama as well as the rest of the South. Now, almost ten years after that legislation was passed, do you think it's been good for the region or bad?
GOV. GEORGE WALLACE:
Well, I think that in the period of time that you're talking about. . . . In the first place, blacks were voting even before then but we did have, you know, statutes that required literacy tests and so forth. I sort of objected to some of the legislation aimed at only a few states. Thought it ought to have been aimed at all the states. But I think that a lot of these gains that you call gains for blacks such as voting, public accommodation, all that, would have come about anyway. Maybe at the state level. It would have taken longer. So I think they're on the books to stay and I don't think anybody's going to try to repeal them and I think that it's really good that we've gotten all that behind us. And that we now need to look forward toward trying to make our states and the country a better place to live for everybody.