The Baltimore Sun


Widow of George C. Wallace

Former Alabama first lady Cornelia Wallace, who threw herself over Gov. George C. Wallace when he was shot in a 1972 assassination attempt, died of cancer Thursday in Sebring, Fla.

Mrs. Wallace, the niece of two-term Gov. James E. "Big Jim" Folsom, married Mr. Wallace on Jan. 4, 1971. It was the second marriage for both.

The union marked a merger between Alabama's two most famous political families and surprised some because Mr. Wallace had defeated Mr. Folsom in the 1962 race for governor, and the relationship between the two men was strained.

Mrs. Wallace was a socially active first lady and was known for her lively personality. But for many, the most lasting memory of her occurred May 15, 1972.

She was accompanying her husband on the Democratic campaign trial for president when Arthur Bremer shot him four times at a campaign rally in Laurel. A news camera captured photos of Mrs. Wallace throwing herself over her husband's body to shield him as he lay bleeding in a shopping center parking lot.

"She's etched in Alabamians' memory because of the tragedy of that," said Joe Turnham, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.

William Stewart, a longtime political scientist at the University of Alabama, said he remains impressed by her bravery during the shooting and her loyalty to her husband during his long recovery from the wounds that left him paralyzed.

"I don't know if he would have made it without her," Mr. Stewart said. "She was totally devoted to him. It was beautiful to see."

Mr. Turnham recalled that as first lady, she urged Alabamians to plant vegetable gardens to be more self-reliant. To help her make her point, Mr. Turnham's father, former state Rep. Pete Turnham, and others joined her in planting a vegetable garden in the backyard of the Governor's Mansion in Montgomery.

The Wallaces divorced in 1978, amid claims she had bugged his phone in the Governor's Mansion. She entered the Democratic primary for governor in 1978 but never campaigned hard and finished last among the 13 candidates. She later moved to central Florida to be near her sons from her previous marriage.

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