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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, July 29 and August 1, 1975. Interview A-0331-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

George Wallace's politics and his growing appeal with American voters in the 1970s

Talmadge offers his thoughts on fellow southern politician, George Wallace. Talmadge attributes Wallace's domination of Alabama politics to his political ingenuity. According to Talmadge, Wallace's politics and leadership style were appealing to not only certain groups of southerners, but to middle-class Americans in general by the 1970s. As evidence, Talmadge cites the sharp increase in support for Wallace following the effort of a judge in Detroit to implement busing as a strategy for school integration. Talmadge's thoughts here seem to be in line with those of scholars who have charted the ascendancy of conservatism during the 1970s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, July 29 and August 1, 1975. Interview A-0331-2. 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 NELSON:
Speaking of George Wallace, Senator, you've known him since he was a circuit judge in Alabama.
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yes, I've known Governor Wallace now for at least eighteen years.
JACK NELSON:
Give me your impressions of him, both as a state politician in Alabama, what he has done in his state and . . .
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
Of course, he has dominated Alabama politics completely for almost twenty years now. Anyone that thinks that George Wallace is a fool is wide of the mark. I have watched him in alleged debates with some of these presidential candidates, I remember when he was a candidate in Maryland a number of years ago, my colleague, Senator Brewster was the stand -in candidate for President Johnson and they had one of these alleged television debates. Of course, it was not a real debate at all, it was more or less interviews by the news media, but Wallace just cut up Brewster so bad that it reminded you of a cat chasing a mouse around. It was right pathetic. He has a very quick mind. He has a sense of what the average middle-class American is thinking and he knows exactly how to prey on their frustrations and in my judgement, in some of these primaries that he enters, he is going to get huge votes not only in the South, but states outside the South as well.
JACK NELSON:
He did before.
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
Oh, yes. Well, you remember his first race in Michigan, he got 10% of the vote and then that crazy judge up there threatened Detroit with cross busing all over the metropolitan area of Detroit and Wallace, as I recall, got over 50% of the vote following that busing decision with all the labor leaders, all the news media, all the members of the clergy and everything else denouncing him as a monster daily.