Wallace took the oath of office on January 14, 1963, standing on the gold star marking the spot where, nearly 102 years earlier, Jefferson Davis was sworn in as provisional president of the Confederate States of America.
Wallace ran for president in the 1968 election as the American Independent Party candidate, with Curtis LeMay as his candidate for vice president. Wallace retracted the invitation, and (after considering Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harland Sanders) chose former Air Force General Curtis LeMay of California. LeMay was considered instrumental in the establishment in 1947 of the United States Air Force and an expert in military affairs.
In 1968, Wallace pledged that "If some anarchist lies down in front of my automobile, it will be the last automobile he will ever lie down in front of" and asserted that the only four letter words that hippies did not know were "w-o-r-k" and "s-o-a-p."
Many found Wallace an entertaining campaigner. To "hippies" who called him a fascist, he replied, "I was killing fascists when you punks were in diapers." Another notable quip: "They're building a bridge over the Potomac for all the white liberals fleeing to Virginia."
From left to right: Governor Wallace, NASA administrator James E. Webb and scientist Wernher von Braun at the Marshall Space Flight Center
In the late 1970s, Wallace announced that he was a born-again Christian and apologized to black civil rights leaders for his past actions as a segregationist. He said that while he had once sought power and glory, he realized he needed to seek love and forgiveness.[note 2] In 1979, Wallace said of his stand in the schoolhouse door: "I was wrong. Those days are over, and they ought to be over." He publicly asked for forgiveness from black Americans.
Wallace married Lurleen Brigham Burns on May 22, 1943. The couple had four children together.In a 1995 interview, Wallace said that he planned to vote for Republican Bob Dole in the 1996 presidential election, commenting, "He's a good man. His wife is a born-again Christian woman and I believe he is, too." He also revealed that he had voted for George H. W. Bush, another Republican, in 1992. His son, George Wallace Jr., officially switched from Democrat to Republican that same year. Wallace himself declined to identify as either a Republican or a Democrat. But he added, "The state is slowly going Republican because of Clinton being so liberal."
Their son, commonly called George Wallace Jr., is a Democrat-turned-Republican formerly active in Alabama politics. He was twice elected state treasurer as a Democrat, and twice elected to the Alabama Public Service Commission. He lost a race in 2006 for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.
Term limits in the Alabama Constitution prevented Wallace from seeking a second term in 1966. Therefore, Wallace offered his wife, Lurleen Wallace, as a surrogate candidate for governor. In the Democratic primary, she defeated two former governors, Jim Folsom and John M. Patterson, Attorney General Richmond Flowers Sr., and former U.S. Representative Carl Elliott. George Wallace's influence in state government thus subsided until his next bid for election in his own right in 1970. He was "first gentleman" for less than a year and a half.
Wallace is the fourth longest-serving governor in U.S. history, having served 5,848 days in office.