George Wallace at the DNC

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(Governor George Wallace assisted by aides into wheelchair during the Democratic National Convention by Bill Eppridge.)

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In the 1930s and 1940s, Americans knew Franklin Roosevelt from his warm and reassuring radio voice, and not his crippled status. A cooperative press and vigilant secret service made sure there were few pictures and almost no film of FDR in a wheelchair.

Less fortunate was former Alabama Governor, George Wallace, whose name has become almost synonymous with segregation. Wallace, who had long apologized for his racist views, was the frontrunner for the democratic presidential nomination in 1972 when an assassin’s bullet crippled him. One bullet lodged in his spinal column, paralyzing him from the waist down. (Trivia: Wallace’s assassin’s diary inspired the 1976 movie Taxi Driver which in turn inspired the assassination attempt on Reagan by John Hinckley, Jr.).

As he was wheeled into the Democratic National Convention in Miami, Wallace received a standing ovation. However, he lost the nomination to George McGovern. His run for the party nomination in ’76 was less successful–the media predominantly depicted Wallace on his wheelchair and this ‘helplessness’ came to define his campaign. He lost to another Southern democrat Jimmy Carter, who went on to win the presidency.