On 15 May 1972, Governor George Wallace of Alabama was shot in Maryland, ending his campaign for the U.S. presidency.
George Wallace first ran for president in 1964. A Democrat, he represented the voters who were opposed to the Civil Rights movement. Wallace’s famous words in 1962 were “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!”
He ran again in 1968, not as a Democrat but as a candidate from the American Independent Party. He got 10 million votes. He ran again in 1972 as a Democrat, against the incumbent president, Richard Nixon.
On 15 May, around 4:00 p.m. in Laurel, Maryland, he was shot by Arthur Bremer. The shooting left Wallace paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. Although he won primaries in Michigan and Maryland, the shooting ruined his chances for winning the general election.
Arthur Bremer was 21 years old at the time. A loner indeed, Bremer was from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That’s where he was when he was arrested after being found asleep in his car in front of a synagogue, with bullets scattered near him. That’s also where he met a 15 year-old girl when he was 20, and after she dumped him for being too weird, he got weirder. He shaved his head and started a diary, where he fantasized about becoming a famous assassin.
They say Travis Bickle, Robert DeNiro‘s character from Taxi Driver, was inspired by Bremer.
He was out to get “either Richard Nixon or George Wallace,” he wrote in his diary, in March of 1972. To make a big splash, Bremer thought Nixon would be a better target. But Wallace was easier to get.
Bremer made an idiotic attempt to get Nixon in Ottawa in April of 1972, but was thwarted by his own incompetence. In May he turned his attention to Governor George Wallace. Again, he failed in what he set out to do — murder someone and become as famous as John Wilkes Booth. He didn’t even remember to yell out the phrase he’d worked on: “A penny for your thoughts!”
Bremer was wrestled to the ground right after shooting Wallace. He ended up being sentenced to 53 years in prison; his original release date was to be in 2025, but he was released in November of 2007 after 35 years of good behavior. Bremer is still under state supervision in Maryland, and will be until 2025, or until he dies.
George Wallace went on to ask forgiveness for his racist policies of the past and was elected to his fourth term as Alabama’s governor in 1983. Wallace died in 1998.
(The George Wallace comic frame is from this “educational” comic book.)