'next president'

The George Wallace Rally

A woman named Gladys Roberts, who was herself from Alabama, was in charge of the Wallace Girls. She looked something like the late Mrs. Lurleen Wallace; that is to say, she was trim, pretty, and hid a faint smile. Gladys Roberts was wearing a styrofoam boater with Wallace stickers pasted on it, a red, white, and blue-striped blazer, a white blouse, a navy blue skirt, stockings, and loafers. She also carried a cardboard painter's bucket.

Gladys Roberts stood in the upper right-hand corner of the Sheraton-Boston's "Ballroom" (which is just a convention hall painted gold) with a tall, thin man also from Alabama. He was in charge of the money.

Gladys Roberts, in her own low-keyed way, was supervising the Wallace Girls--most of whom were volunteer women from Greater Boston. The Wallace Girls wore appropriate banners and boaters and paraded up and down the aisles soliciting funds, selling Wallace neckties, and handling out little cards. They were eager to please. Occasionally one fo them would come running back to Gladys Roberts and say "None of the people in my row wanted to give. But I asked them anyway, just for the fun of it. Was that all right?" Of course, it was all right.

Well, by 8:15, the Wallace Girls were pretty busy. The hall was filling rapidly, though it was apparent that only about 2/3 of the 3500 people were Wallace partisans. A large sprinkling of "I make noise, therefore, I exist" liberals were in the ballroom discussing George's crimes, Gene's virtues, and the disarming simplicity of the rubes who had come to hear the Bad Man.

But it was still sometime before Wallace's planned arrival. The organist, who had one of those organs that can reproduce the sound of any musical instrument, began a rendition of "Baby, the Rain Must Fall". Colonel Laurence Bunker, advisor to Robert Welch, sponsor of the July 4 "New England Rally for God and Country", roamed around the hall looking thoughtful and masterly.

The Boston Globe's stream-of-consciousness writer roamed around the hall without a notebook.

The Globe's news reporter sat up front with the TV-men, huddled over his notebook. A secret serviceman stopped a boy carrying a canvas bag at the front door. The bag was full of dirty laundry.

"Will Everyone Here Kindly Step to the Rear and Let a Winner Lead the Way" wafted down to the back of the hall. A small, bald-headed, ruddy-faced man who said he was a farmer from northern Middlesex County manned a desk full of nomination petitions at the doorway. One reporter, somewhat uncharitably, said the farmer was "dressed in a smartly-cut Robert Hall suit." Sitting next to the farmer was a cripple, who had a slick DA hair-cut and a black leather jacket. His crutches lay on the floor. "We've got to get Governor Wallace on the ballot now," he said, pounding his fists. "And then the fight isn't over. It isn't over on November Fifth either. This fight is just beginning," he said, bouncing back and forth.

"How many of you love America? I know you love America. Now, how many of you love America. Stand up, if you love America. Let me see you stand up if you love America, "roared a big, dark man at the podium. He was Seymour, the lady to the left said. Seymour continued in the best revival fashion. The audience responded in the best revival fashion. They stood up, banged their hands together, whistled, cheered, and stomped. They love America.

"Now, if you really love America, and I know you love America, then watch as the Wallace Girls come down the aisles and wait upon you." We all knew what the Wallace Girls were for, we all shut up. "Now the Wallace Girls who are waiting upon you, have petitions which make you official Wallace fund-raisers," the man said. Still silence.

"Now, I can't see you down there because of the bright lights," Seymour said, "but I want all of you who can raise $1000 for the campaign to raise their hands." Not a taker in the hall.

"Now just raise your hands, and the Wallace Girls will pass among you and wait upon you. Now don't all raise at once," he said. Still no takers. "Now I know that a $1000 bill is hard to raise, so if you feel you can't do that then how about $500. Just raise your hands." The Wallace Girls stood embarrassed throughout the hall. No one raised a hand.

"Well, if there are those among you who'd like to make a more modest contribution, then the Wallace Girls will pass you with the buckets. You can place what you'd like in the buckets. Also, we have learned that the Governor is on his way here now and will be with us in just a very few minutes," he added.

The organist began to play again. Gladys Roberts and the Wallace Girls continued to move up and down the aisles. The number of dollar bills they received was impressive. The tall, thin man in charge of the money stood in his corner separating the ones from the fives. He threw a toy $50 bill on the floor.

After a while, Gladys Roberts, still smiling but looking a little bit haggard came up to the money-man. "He announced the $1000 petitions all wrong", she told him. "All wrong, it doesn't work that way at all." Soon Seymour was brought over to talk to Gladys Roberts. She explained the $1000 fund-raising petition scheme to him and he listened carefully, nodding his head.

"Friends and neighbors," Seymour roared from the podium. The organist stopped playing "Hey, Look Me Over, Hey, Lend an Ear". "Some of the Wallace Girls tell me you've been having a few questions about the $1000 petition. Well, ladies and gentlemen, much as we'd like it, we don't expect you to raise the $1000 bill all by yourself. We'd like you to take this petition out among your friends and neighbors here in your state and in your community and have you see if you can try and get them to contribute. Of course, you can start it off with a contribution of your own."

Seymour signaled to the organist and to the Wallace Girls. But there were still no takers. Nonetheless the girls marched up and down the aisles, passing the backets. Gladys Roberts talked to the money-man for a few minutes more, shaking her head.

More official hawkers moved among the people. Some were selling copies of The Wallace Story for $5.00, bumper stickers for 25c, buttons for 10c. Finally the organist slid into a rendition of "Dixie", Seymour moved back to the podium yelling, "And now here he is, Ladies and Gentlemen, here he is. The next president of the United States. The next president of the United States. The Honorable George Wallace." The Secret Service men moved forward on the stage, the organist took out all stops, and the audience was back on its feet, cheering, whistling, applauding, and loving America.