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George Wallace lost the 1958 gubernatorial election to John Patterson. Although both campaigned as segregationists, Patterson, as attorney general, had established a stronger record as a defender of racial discrimination, and Wallace placed less emphasis on segregation in his speeches and advertisements. After his loss Wallace vowed never to be outdone as an advocate and defender of segregation.
Wallace fulfilled his vow in the 1962 election campaign and won primarily on that basis. In his inauguration speech he promised to maintain "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." This often-quoted battle cry served as a summary of the next decade of his career. Wallace opposed every attempt by the federal government to end segregation especially in schools, and he fought the federal government's attempts to end voting discrimination.
As governor Wallace supported the notorious racist Bull Connor in his campaign to become Birmingham's mayor, attempted to bar the enrollment of two black students at the University of Alabama, and sent over one hundred state troopers to stop the federal court-ordered integration of public schools in Macon County, Birmingham, Mobile, and elsewhere. He supported the closing of public schools in order to prevent integration and the use of public monies to assist all-white private schools created mainly to avoid integration.
Wallace ran for president in 1964, speaking against what he called the "civil wrongs" bill. He won enough votes in northern Democratic party primaries to frighten national political leaders and attract widespread media coverage. He repeated this performance as a 1968 third party candidate.
His active defense of segregation and voting discrimination continued until the 1972 assassination attempt that nearly took his life. Years later he publicly apologized for his fight against civil rights.