Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 13, 1976 · Page 154
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 154

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 13, 1976
Page 154
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Page 154 article text (OCR)

conversations became somewhat like therapy sessions for both of. us. We talked of marriage. When we finally talked about marrying each other, George would say, 'You don't want to marry me. Someday I'll be in a wheelchair.' And I always answered, That wouldn't bother me because I'm looking for a man who can't get away.'" Cornelia and George were married Jan. 4,1971, in the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montgomery. It was a simple religious ceremony, and after it was finished Cornelia remembers her then- 7-year-old son Jim happily saying to her, "Mama, I think we got it made." In a parking lot Sixteen months later, on May 15, 1972, in a shopping center in Laurel, Md., George Wallace was gunned down by an apparently demented assassin, Arthur Bremer. And life for Cornelia Wallace was dramatically un-made. Cornelia graphically reveals in her book the harrowing details of her husband's near-death, his amazing recovery and his becoming reconciled to his paralysis. She is modest in recounting the major role she played in his recovery. "I'll tell you straight out," she says, "what I did to help George. I accepted him exactly like he was. I never thought of him as any different than he was before he was shot. And that's how I expected him to act and behave. Now, that may seem like a tough, hard line. But he knew I loved and accepted him--I still do, of course--and I think that helped him accept himself. A question of legs "He was the one who was worried about acceptance^ It bothered him that his leg muscles might atrophy and get small. So I told him, 'George, I didn't marry you because you had nice-looking legs, because your legs have always been ugly.' I mean, he has a brilliant mind, but he just doesn't have nice- looking legs, never had. "That's the kind of thing I would say to him," Cornelia explains. "I never told him anything that wasn't true. And I still don't. At times, early in his recovery, he would say to me, 'Please turn off the TV.' And I would honestly forget that he couldn't get up and walk, and I would say, 'Turn it off yourself.' And that habit of treating him as usual --I think that is the secret of whatever I did to make him accept his lot in life." Cornelia Wallace believes in the conspiracy theory of her husband's near assassination. "I think," she says, "that Arthur Bremer has a very weak mind and was brainwashed by someone into trying to murder my husband. I don't have any proof, any evidence. It's just one of my gut feelings. "I think that while Bremer was staying at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York someone with strong telepathic powers tuned in on him, maybe two or three rooms away, and sent strong thought waves out, which said, 'Arthur Bremer, you're very sick, very sick, very sick. George Wallace is making you sick. If you ever want to be well again, you must get rid of George Wallace.' "I know it's a wild-out idea," she concedes. "But it's the only new angle that hasn't been investigated, and I think it bears looking into." The gift of intuition Mrs. Wallace also has her own explanation for her husband's relatively poor showing in the primary campaign. "I don't think," she states, "that George ever really made up his mind decisively to enter this Presidential campaign, because he canceled twice the announcement that he was going to run. He's an intuitive person, and I think when George follows his intuition--God's just given him this gift--he's right. But when other people push him, sometimes things don't work out. "I don't think he really felt like announcing--maybe it was the hangover from being shot--but subconsciously it was hard for him to make the announcement that he was going to run. "So it was his team that set the date. And of course what made him run was the same thing that made me write my book. They told George, 'All these people have given their money, and they stand behind you, and you can't let 'em down.' And that's George's vulnerable spot. He feels that he has an obligation to represent them, to run on their behalf. But deep down I'm not sure that he really felt this time the intuition to run. "And of course there are other reasons he didn't run well. Without a doubt the image of a man being in a wheelchair might be acceptable in Alabama where people know George and love George. And it may be an acceptable image to some people in this country. But most people want Iheir President to stand up tall and straight when he meets a head of state from Russia or. Japan or England. ... "Wheelchair to many people is synonymous with sick, and you know he's not sick. He's extremely healthy, but it would take a lot of education for people to realize that. TV options "I think George's campaign organization let him down. For TV they should've shown him swimming in the pool, driving the boat up at the lake. They could've stood him in his braces or leaned him up against a fence post on the farm and had him say, This is where. I was brought up. My father was a dirt farmer.' He can do the same thing Jimmy Carter did. But don't get me started on Jimmy Carter. There is such a thing, you know, as honor in your word. "Anyway, about George. They didn't do much to overcome his wheelchair image. In retrospect I think he would Cornelia and George Wallace with his son, George jr., 24, in the Governor's office. The couple have six children by previous marriages, four his, two hers. have been better off slaying at home and letting them show TV films expressing his views." George Wallace attributes his diminished popularily to the fact that other candidates have co-opted his "too much Washington and big government" issues. "Nearly every candidate," he points out, "now drinks from the same well and same dipper as I have for a long time." Cornelia puts it similarly: "Everybody is singing his song. And if everybody is singing his song, the fella who can walk and sing looks better than the fella who sings in a wheelchair. 'How can he miss?' "I saw people interviewed on television, and they were asked why they voted for jimmy Carter, and they said it's because he's against big government. Well, George Wallace said that in '72, but it's like they never heard it before. It's just coming out of a different mouth, same thing. But Carter has this big grin and a mouthful of teelh, reminiscent of that Kennedy look. And a smile is contagious for some reason. And he tells folks on one end of the economic ladder that he's a peanut farmer and folks on the other end that he's a nuclear physicist, which he's not. And you look at the range of people he's covered in there--plain old country folks from the rural areas and sophisticated folks from the major cities-so, my goodness! How can he miss?" Despite the tragedies and disappointments she's suffered, despite the fact that practically every journalist who interviews her asks if the Governor's paralysis did not leave him sexually impotent, Cornelin Wallace refuses to commiserale with herself. "I may look sad or weary," she admits, "but I don't really feel that life's cheated me. I really think God's been good to me. Here I am at 37, and I have a new career. I mean I'm an author now. Silver linings "Certainly I've had a lol of really sad things happen in my life. But I've had so many good things, too. And out of every bad situation, there comes something wonderfully good. It was devastating to me when my first marriage broke up. But then I married George and entered this exciting life. "The shooting of my husband has brought all of us, especially my children, some realistic sense of values and some courage to live Ihrough and overcome the obstacles of life. It's brought us closer to our Savior lesus Christ. And frankly I live life unafraid." Cornelia Wallace expects to continue "my writing." She hopes her book C'nelia sells well, and she says it would not surprise her one bit to find herself eventually in Washington, D. C, "possibly the wife of a U.S. Senator, if only George would change his mind."

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