Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Life

An Accidental Archivist and the (nearly) complete audio of George Wallace’s ‘Segregation’ Speech

When searching for the audio of George Wallace’s ‘Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever,’ speech, we repeatedly found ourselves at a dead end. We looked in many collections and archives but we could not find a full recording of the speech, only clips of that one infamous line.

In the moment, it’s sometimes difficult to know that what you are experiencing is “historic.” But producers of audio histories like us rely on accidental archivists like Raymond Griffin who are present at key turning points in history, and have the foresight to document them. As a young aviator, Griffin first met the state legislator George Wallace at a small airfield in Alabama. The two men crossed paths again when Griffin turned his photography hobby into a career as a freelance cameraman. Wallace hired him during his 1958 campaign for Governor and called upon him to cover his 1963 inaugural address. Griffin had a 16 millimeter film camera rolling while Wallace spoke that day and caught nearly all of it on tape. The last few minutes of the speech are missing, most likely because Griffin simply ran out of film.  Thankfully, Griffin kept the recording and later passed it on to another cameraman who worked for Wallace, Ray Jones. In 2009, Jones donated it to the Alabama Dept. of Archives and History, which is where we finally found the audio for our documentary, Segregation Now, Segregation Forever: The Infamous Words of George Wallace.

Here is the nearly-complete audio of Wallace’s January 14, 1963 inaugural address. Thanks to Griffin and the other archivists, we can get a sense of the speech, the man, and the moment.

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