Gov. George C. Wallace, who has dominated Alabama politics for much of the past quarter-century, announced today that he is bringing his public career to a close and will not run for a record fifth term.
“I feel that I must say I have climbed my last political mountain,” Wallace told an overflow crowd in the House chamber of the Alabama Capitol.
Wallace choked back tears and could hardly speak at times as he told longtime supporters and relatives that he would “bid a fond and affectionate farewell” to politics.
Would Like to Continue
The 66-year-old governor said that he would like to continue in office but that in 1972, when he was shot five times and paralyzed in the legs during a White House bid, the clock began to run out on his political life.
“These five bullets gave me a thorn in the flesh,” he said. “I prayed that it be removed, but it was not.”
He said his health might prevent him from being the governor Alabama needs for the next four years and he urged whoever succeeds him to “keep on climbing the mountain.”
“As I grow older, the effects of the problem may become more noticeable,” the governor said. “I feel I must say I have signed (my last pieces of legislation).”
Illnesses linked to his paralysis have sent Wallace to the hospital for extended periods five times covering 10 weeks in the last three years.
He also suffers from failing hearing and eyesight but recently declared himself fit to seek reelection.
The latest polls, however, showed voters were concerned about his ability to run state government.
Longtime Wallace aide Billy Joe Camp resigned as press secretary last year and announced plans to run for governor. Another Wallace ally, Lt. Gov. Bill Baxley, has also announced his candidacy for governor.
Wallace first won the governor’s office in 1962 as a champion of Deep South segregationists and won it most recently in 1982 as a racial moderate who courted--and won--the black vote.