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  1. Florida Politics

Looking Back...to 1972: George Wallace vs. the 'lying' media

George Wallace campaigns for the Democratic nomination for President at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

TIMES | Tony Lopez
George Wallace campaigns for the Democratic nomination for President at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. TIMES | Tony Lopez
Published Oct. 5, 2017

In introducing George Wallace, who was running for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination, to his all-white audience, Sam Buice, president of Parents Against Forced Busing (PAFB), said, "The news media have led you to believe that he (Wallace) is a racist" and was cut off by shouts of "right on" and applause. "And they say he's a red-neck country boy – well, I'm glad to say I'm one of those too," Buice said to more applause.

This story appeared in the pages of the St. Petersburg Times on February 13, 1972. What follows is the text of the original story, interspersed with photos of the event taken by Times staff photographer Tony Lopez.

Wallace Tells Supporters: 'We Want Our Party Back'

By Eleanor Randolph and Peggy Vlerebome

Times staff writers

Alabama Gov. George Wallace made his first visit to St. Petersburg Saturday and sounded less like a candidate for president than a man trying to change the drift of the Democratic Party, in particular, and national politics in general.

TIMES | Tony Lopez

TIMES | Tony Lopez

TIMES | Tony Lopez

TIMES | Tony Lopez

Before a crowd ranging in estimates from 3,000 by police to 4,500 by organizers of the Wallace rally, the fiery governor told his audience that a vote for him March 14 will be the "average man telling the Democratic Party we want our party back because it belongs to us.

Bringing the issue closer to home for the audience organized by Parents Against Forced Busing (PAFB), Wallace said that if the busing referendum doesn't get on the March 14 in Florida ballot, "when you vote for me it will be a referendum" against busing.

A "straw vote" of busing to integrate schools is pending in the Legislature.

TIMES | Tony Lopez

TIMES | Tony Lopez

A noisy crowd – roaring its applause after almost every sentence – sat in dry comfort in the covered grandstand at Al Lang field while rain pelted Wallace until Sam Bulce, president of PAFB, hovered over him with an umbrella.

His hand chopping the air, Wallace took swipes at five U.S. senators and one former senator also in the race for the Democratic nominee for president.

As aides held huge signs listing the six names, Wallace and his excited audience chanted twice: "Hartke, Humphrey, Jackson, McCarthy, McGovern, Muskie." (Vance Hartke, D-Ind., Hubert Humphrey, D-Minn., Henry Jackson, D-Wash., Eugene McCarthy, D-Minn., George McGovern, D-S.D. and Edmund Muskie, D-Maine.)

TIMES | Tony Lopez

TIMES | Tony Lopez

Wallace charged the six with contributing to all the problems he is combating.

Turning to law and order, an old favorite in Wallace's past campaign, the governor told his all-white audience that "if you get knocked on the head going out of here tonight, they'll be out of jail before you get to the hospital."

Wallace went from the law-and-order issue to assailing the welfare program, which he said is "going to break every state, every county, every city, every taxpayer," adding that he favors welfare "for the elderly, the blind, the disabled" but not for people "who make a profession of being on welfare."

Wallace, who has said in past months that he is gearing his campaign to the "average citizen," knocked the nation's tax system that he says gives $200-billion in exemptions to churches, skyscrapers, hotels and foundations.

"I'm tired of being discriminated against on taxes and I'm tired of the citizen paying more than his share in Florida and in the U.S." Wallace said taxes "are double what they'd be if you elect me."

TIMES | Tony Lopez

Sam Buice, president of Parents Against Forced Busing (PAFB) keeps George Wallace dry.

TIMES | Tony Lopez

Sam Buice, president of Parents Against Forced Busing (PAFB) keeps George Wallace dry.

About that time, eight youths in the east wing of the stands began shouting insults at the governor until those surrounding them shouted, shook their fists and urged them to "just go home." The youths left the stands and appeared to leave the stadium.

Wallace didn't seem to mind the rain as he continued his speech about 15 minutes longer than he had planned to return to the busing issue and attacking the courts that ordered children to be bused.

The orders, he said, are "senseless, asinine and atrocious."

When Wallace said he wants "local control of school systems," the rest of his sentence was drowned out by applause.

TIMES | Tony Lopez

TIMES | Tony Lopez

Applause thundered also when he said, "Who do the children belong to? Not to the government, but to the citizens of Florida."

Busing is a "social scheme of do-gooders" and Wallace said judges "have more power over our children than elected officials and people at the polls."

But judges, he said, "don't hang their pants on the wall and jump into them every day, they step in one leg at a time like I do," bringing laughter and applause from the audience.

He appealed to voters "of every race, color, creed and national origin" to "put horse sense back in the school system."

TIMES | Tony Lopez

TIMES | Tony Lopez

TIMES | Tony Lopez

TIMES | Tony Lopez

On international policy, Wallace said that Western Europe should pay for having NATO troops. "We're proud to have rehabilitated Western Europe and we have our NATO troops there to provide a shield or umbrella against the Communists. What we are trying to say is that Western Europe is rich and should pay for keeping troops."

A vote for Wallace is a vote to say "stop giving away" tax money for things like foreign aid "to every Hong Kong country that spits in our faces at the United Nations" and use the money instead for higher Social Security payments for the elderly, for fighting pollution and for national defense.

"If you theorists think they will disarm because we disarm, you should have your head bored for the hollow horn. Superiority is the only way we'll have peace and avoid World War III."

TIMES | Tony Lopez

TIMES | Tony Lopez

American troops, Wallace said in speaking about the Vietnam War, "should never be committed anywhere in the world unless we intend for them to win."

"The war could have been over years ago," he said. "We should continue the withdrawal. They (the North Vietnamese) want to kill a few American soldiers every week as long as they can."

Wallace received some of the loudest applause of the night when he added, "Let the Communists rebuild Communist North Vietnam." Part of President Nixon's peace plan for Vietnam is American aid to help rebuild all of Vietnam.

TIMES | Tony Lopez

TIMES | Tony Lopez

At the start of the rally, Buice announced that a police lieutenant had estimated the crowd at 3,500 to 4,000. "On behalf of The St. Petersburg Times I want to welcome all 300 of you," Buice said, referencing to past differences in estimates of crowd sizes at PAFB events. Just before Wallace spoke, Buice said the crowd numbered 4,500 to 5,000.

CBS, UPI and Times reporters estimated the crowd at 3,000, a figure Mrs. Gwen McCook, public relations director of PAFB, said was a fair estimate. "I'd say 3,000 to 3,500, but I'd settle on 3,000," she said.

Lt. Robert Young of the St. Petersburg Police Department estimated the crowd at about 2,000 when Buice was saying 3,500 to 4,000 and at near 3,000 when Buice was saying 4,500 to 5,000. "A man came over and asked me how many there are, but the number I gave him wasn't the one he announced," Young said.

TIMES | Tony Lopez

TIMES | Tony Lopez

Buice, in introducing Wallace said, "The news media have led you to believe that he (Wallace) is a racist" and was cut off by shouts of "right on" and applause. "And they say he's a red-neck country boy – well, I'm glad to say I'm one of those too," Buice said to more applause.

Wallace will go to Jacksonville today.

TIMES | Tony Lopez

TIMES | Tony Lopez

Jeremy King

Twitter: @TBTimesArchive

e-mail: jking@tampabay.com