NARRATION: President Donald Trumps rise was fueled by voters fed up with the status quo.
ARCHIVAL (C-SPAN, DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN ANNOUNCEMENT, 6-15-15):DONALD TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, theyre not sending their best. Theyre not sending you.
B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR.: Its us and them, and he tapped into it.
ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS, 5-12-16):DONALD TRUMP: We cant continue to allow China to rape our country.
ARCHIVAL (TYT NETWORK, 2-27-16):UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He knows what needs to be done. Make America great again.
NARRATION: And his rhetoric continues to polarize the country.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, OUTFRONT, 1-11-18):ERIN BURNETT: President Trump using an ugly, vulgar expression that is racist.
ARCHIVAL (FOX NEWS, TUCKER CARLSON, 1-11-18):TUCKER CARLSON: So, I dont understand what the sin is. Whats good for us? Are we allowed to ask that question or is that racist?
ARCHIVAL (C-SPAN, TRUMP CAMPAIGN RALLY, 4-22-16):DONALD TRUMP: Build the wall, build the wall!
NARRATION: But the politics of division arent new. Five decades ago populist appeals fueled the rise of another controversial politician, George Wallace, whose story ended in a way no one expected.
B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR.: Well, Wallace was a good politician. He knew how to play the game and, maybe, more to the point, he would use anything to play that game.
ARCHIVAL (ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF ARCHIVES AND HISTORY, GEORGE C. WALLACE INAUGURATION ADDRESS, 1-14-63):GEORGE C. WALLACE: I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.
NARRATION: B. Drummond Ayres covered Wallace for The New York Times 50 years ago.
B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR. (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 1966-2002): Race was everything with Wallace. Whatever he did had a racial element to it.
NARRATION: But Ayres says Wallace didnt start out that way when he first ran for governor in 1958.
B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR.: He started out traditionally. Roads, schools and so forth. One of his opponents started talking about race itself, blacks and whites. And he beat Wallace and thats when he changed and said hed never be beaten again.
NARRATION: In 1963, as governor of Alabama, he rose to prominence by defying President John F. Kennedy.
ARCHIVAL (UNIVERSAL NEWSREEL, 1960s):NARRATOR: The governor is adamant. He made a campaign promise to stand in the doorway himself to prevent the integration of the last all-white state university.
B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR.: The race element was the biggest thing in the South and segregation was the biggest element in the racial factor. Wallace just played it, he rode it. It was about the only thing he did because he wasnt particularly interested in issues.
ARCHIVAL (AP TELEVISION, GEORGE C. WALLACE CAMPAIGN RALLY IN FLORIDA, 3-8-72):UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The best thing I know to do is to let Dixie introduce George Wallace.
NARRATION: When Wallace ran for president, he carried that issue to the national stage.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, EVENING NEWS, 10-25-68):GEORGE C. WALLACE: Dont worry about what the newspapers say about us. They call us extremists and want to say we are fascist. Well, I want to tell these newspapers something, these large newspapers who think they know more than the average citizen on the street in New York, you havent always been right.TOM JARRIEL: Afterward many left humming Dixie and shouting white power.
NARRATION: Wallace made opposing federal mandates to integrate schools and neighborhoods a centerpiece of his presidential campaigns.
ARCHIVAL (GEORGE C. WALLACE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN AD, 1968):CAMPAIGN AD: Why are more and more millions of Americans turning to Governor Wallace? Follow as your children are bussed across town.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, EVENING NEWS, 8-13-71):GEORGE C. WALLACE: Chaos exists in this country and in the public school system because of bussing. Everybody knows that, so Im not bringing on any chaos. Bussing is bringing on chaos.
B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR.: Them is the word. We dont want them in our schools. We dont want to be on the bus with them. We dont want them living next to us.
NARRATION: And he lit a spark under a swath of American voters who felt ignored.
ARCHIVAL (AP TELEVISION, ROVING REPORT, 2-1-75):BAND (SINGING): Hes our kinda man, our kinda man. George Wallace is our kinda man.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, EVENING NEWS, 1-13-72):DAVID BRINKLEY: As he always puts it he speaks for the truck driver, the beautician, the policeman and other members of the so-called working class.
ARCHIVAL (AP TELEVISION, ROVING REPORT, 2-1-75):BAND (singing): Hes for Alabam, for Alabam.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, EVENING NEWS, 9-20-68):UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I like that man, he tells you what, you know, he tells you the truth. Thats what it is.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, EVENING NEWS, 1-13-72):DAVID BRINKLEY: And it is true that the liberal, educated, academic, journalistic, professional, intellectual circles seem not much interested in the white working class.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, EVENING NEWS, 8-12-68):UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He is not a racist. Thats definite.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, EVENING NEWS, 9-20-68):UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Im going to vote for George Wallace because he says what I like to hear.
B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR.: Wallace understood that there were people who were hurting, struggling, losing jobs. He tapped into that and appealed to that because folks that are struggling often feel put upon. Wallace played that to the hilt.
ARCHIVAL (AP TELEVISION, GEORGE C. WALLACE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN RALLY IN LAUREL, MD, 5-15-72):GEORGE C. WALLACE: I did represent more of the average citizen of this country than did any other candidate based on the fact that the man who works each day for a living and pays his taxes and holds the country together has been ignored except on Election Day.UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The next president of the United States: the honorable George C. Wallace!
B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR.: We wont ever know how far he might have gone had he not been shot. But, after he got shot, over a few years, all of a sudden, he had an epiphany it seems.
NARRATION: Times were changing and Wallace who at that point had been Alabama governor for much of the past decade understood he had to change with them.
B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR.: The turning point when everybody realized that he was turning was the crowning of the homecoming queen.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, EVENING NEWS, 12-4-73):GEORGE C. WALLACE: Congratulations, here. Youre a mighty pretty queen, here.TERRY POINTS: Thank you very much. Thank you.
B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR.: She bends down and he puts a crown on her and holds both of her hands like that. It made the evening news. And very shortly after that, if not the same weekend, Wallace met with the Southern black leaders in Alabama, because he was in another campaign at that point. And he needed their votes.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, EVENING NEWS, 12-4-73):KENLEY JONES: Some blacks are willing to talk now about supporting a Wallace candidacy.MAYOR JOHNNY FORD: I think that what men do in the future as far as improving the quality of life for all citizens, be they black or white, is really whats going to determine whether or not that was a great man or an effective man, not so much what he did in the past.
B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR.: He made apologies, asked for forgiveness and in fact, Martin Luther Kings father came in and actually prayed with him. And he went to the grave still apologizing, still saying he was wrong, still saying he was trying to do something for black folks. And in fact, he was at that point. He would do things as a governor that would help blacks because the worm had turned on this issue.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, EVENING NEWS, 4-4-86):PETER JENNINGS: It would take him 20 years to abandon the politics of race. But in 1982 when he came out to run for governor once again, he won with crucial black support. Blacks had acquired political power. Now he needed them.
B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR.: If you want to be cynical and I can be cynical about George Wallace what it says about him is that he would play anything with the race angle to get votes.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, EVENING NEWS, 4-4-86):GEORGE C. WALLACE: I made a mistake and thats all, in the past and Im, Im sorry that I did that because it gave the wrong opinion of the kind of man that I was.
B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR.: Only the good Lord knows whether or not he was sincere.