LURLEEN BURNS WALLACE was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on September 19, 1926. She graduated from Tuscaloosa Business College and worked in a Tuscaloosa dime store where she met George C. Wallace. Sixteen-year-old Lurleen married Wallace on May 22, 1943, and devoted herself to being a housewife and mother over the next 20 years. When her husband was elected governor in 1963, she assumed the duties of first lady. Mrs. Wallace opened the first floor of the governor’s mansion to tourists seven days a week and refused to serve alcoholic beverages at executive mansion functions. In 1966, after failing to get the legislature to amend the constitution to allow governors to serve consecutive terms, Governor George Wallace announced the candidacy of his wife Lurleen for governor. The couple admitted frankly that if Lurleen was elected, George would continue to make the administrative policies and decisions. Mrs. Wallace won the May Democratic primary with 54 percent of the vote which assured her election in November. She was inaugurated on January 16, 1967, and refused to have the customary inaugural ball out of respect to Alabamians serving in Vietnam. Although she continued to carry out George’s policies regarding segregation, Mrs. Wallace did not remain in her husband’s shadow completely. She initiated a few programs of her own. Most notable was her successful campaign to increase funding for the state’s mental hospitals. During her administration, a $160 million road bond bill was also passed, as was a program to develop Alabama’s parks and historic sites. In her short term as governor, Lurleen Wallace was hospitalized with cancer on several occasions before her death on May 7, 1968.
Governors of the American States, Commonwealths and Territories, National Governors' Conference, 1967.