Wallace-for-President Rally, 1968
George C. Wallace, a former segregationist governor of Alabama, was an independent candidate for president in 1968. Well known for his symbolic stand "in the schoolhouse doorway" to oppose integration at the University of Alabama, he entered the presidential race claiming to offer voters "a real choice," and that there was "not a dime's worth of difference" between the two major parties. Arriving at the Raleigh-Durham Airport on October 24, Wallace said, "Both national parties can't understand a redneck running for president. They have looked down their noses at us."
Later that day, he spoke to an estimated crowd of 15,000 in the parking lot of Durham's police headquarters (the present city hall location). Spectators came from as far away as Onslow and Haywood counties. Wallace delivered a speech similar to others he had given around the country. He pledged to "return some sanity" to the federal government, criticized "federal guideline writers," and claimed to have the support of Southern union leaders—though the national AFL-CIO was attempting to discredit his claim to be a friend to organized labor.
Supporters and opponents of former Alabama governor George Wallace clash at a 1968 Wallace-for-President rally at Durham police headquarters. Photographer: Bill Boyarsky . Durham Civil Rights Heritage Project Collection (NCC.0040), North Carolina Collection, Durham County Library, NC . Photo ID: mss_0040_008
Wallace received a mixed reception. While one local newspaper reported there were "oceans" of "Wallace for President" placards in the crowd, other demonstrators carried signs such as "Nobody Wins with Wallace" and "Hitler Was to Jews What Wallace Is to Blacks." Responding to hecklers, Wallace said, "Let them get on television and it will all be over with," and "I don't know what they teach in college these days, but they ought to teach you how to behave in a crowd."
At one point, a brawl broke out between Wallace supporters and opponents. According to one report, it was set off when a man wearing a Wallace campaign hat released a tear-gas-like chemical toward a group of black and white counter-demonstrators. Three people, including one police officer, received minor injuries before the fight was broken up.
A policeman approaches a man in the crowd during the Wallace-for-president rally in Durham. Photographer: Bill Boyarsky . Durham Civil Rights Heritage Project Collection (NCC.0040), North Carolina Collection, Durham County Library, NC . Photo ID: mss_0040_005
Anti-Wallace protesters with gas masks at Wallace-for-president rally at the Durham police headquarters. Photographer: Bill Boyarsky . Durham Civil Rights Heritage Project Collection (NCC.0040), North Carolina Collection, Durham County Library, NC . Photo ID: mss_0040_016
On election day, Wallace received 31 percent of North Carolina's popular vote. Republican Richard Nixon won the state with 40 percent, and Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey came in third with 29 percent.