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Cornelia Wallace

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cornelia Wallace
First Lady of Alabama
In role
January 18, 1971 – January 4, 1978
GovernorGeorge Wallace
Preceded byMartha Farmer Brewer
Succeeded byBobbie Mooney James
Personal details
Cornelia Ellis

(1939-01-28)January 28, 1939
Elba, Alabama, U.S
DiedJanuary 8, 2009(2009-01-08) (aged 69)
Sebring, Florida, U.S
Political partyDemocratic
John Snively III
(m. 1962; div. 1970)
(m. 1971; div. 1978)
Alma materHuntingdon College
Rollins College

Cornelia Wallace (née Ellis, formerly Snively; January 28, 1939 – January 8, 2009) was the First Lady of Alabama from 1971–1978 and the second wife of Democratic Governor George C. Wallace.

Wallace attracted national attention on May 15, 1972, when, at the age of 33 she threw herself over her husband when he was shot four times by Arthur Bremer during an assassination attempt at a shopping center in Laurel, Maryland.[1] At the time, Wallace was seeking support in his bid for his party's presidential nomination.


Wallace was born in Elba in southeastern Alabama to Charles G. Ellis, a civil engineer who died in 1960, and "Big Ruby” Folsom Ellis, former Governor James E. “Big Jim” Folsom's sister. Folsom was a widower and in 1947 invited his sister to be First Lady; Cornelia joined her at eight years of age.[2]

Wallace attended Methodist Huntingdon College and Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and studied voice and piano. She sang and played guitar and toured Australia and Hawaii with Country music singer Roy Acuff.[3] Wallace wrote and recorded two songs for M-G-M records: "It's No Summer Love" and "Baby with the Barefoot Feet".[4] Following her father's death, she and her mother, who was not wealthy but had many wealthy and influential contacts, often house sat for wealthy friends in Washington, D.C., and other cities in order to live beyond their limited means. She married John Snively, whose family owned the tourist attraction Cypress Gardens near Winter Haven, Florida. The couple had two sons, James and Joshua, but divorced in 1969.[2][5]

Cornelia Wallace was a niece of George Wallace's intraparty rival, former Governor Jim Folsom, whom Wallace had defeated in the 1962 Democratic primary. She married Wallace on January 4, 1971, shortly before he was inaugurated for the second of his four nonconsecutive terms as governor,[5] and two and a half years following the death of his first wife, former Governor Lurleen Burns Wallace.[3]

Death and legacy[edit]

She was portrayed by Angelina Jolie in the TV film George Wallace. The Associated Press stated that the film's version of Cornelia Wallace was depicted as "a shallow sex kitten" and therefore Cornelia Wallace had criticism towards the portrayal.[6]

Wallace died of cancer in Sebring, Florida, on January 8, 2009.[5]

Turnham also recalled that as first lady, Mrs. Wallace urged Alabamians to plant vegetable gardens to be more self-reliant.[7]


  1. ^ Former Alabama first lady Cornelia Wallace dies KVOA
  2. ^ a b "SOUTHERN LIGHTS: Courageous Cornelia had, then lost, it all". TuscaloosaNews.com. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  3. ^ a b Blair, Bill (August 24, 1997). "The Life of Wallace: Former Alabama First Lady talks about movie, ex-husband, and adventures". The Ledger. Lakeland, Florida: Lakeland Legend Publishing Company.
  4. ^ "Cornelia: Determined to 'Make Do'". Time. May 29, 1972. Archived from the original on January 31, 2008. Retrieved February 5, 2009.
  5. ^ a b c "Cornelia Wallace, 69, First Lady of Alabama, Dies". The New York Times. New York. January 9, 2009. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 5, 2011.
  6. ^ "Widow of late Gov. George Wallace dies at 69". NBC News. 2009-01-09. Retrieved 2022-06-08. - Alternate version ("Cornelia Wallace, 69, First Lady of Alabama, Dies") at The New York Times, January 9, 2009. Version ("Cornelia Wallace, 69, second wife of Alabama Gov. George Wallace") at The Hour (Norwalk, Connecticut), January 8, 2009. Alternate ("Former Alabama first lady Cornelia Wallace dies") at The Columbus Dispatch, January 8, 2009.
  7. ^ Rawls, Phillip (January 10, 2009). "Cornelia Wallace, 69, former Ala. first lady". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cleveland, Ohio. Archived from the original on October 14, 2012. Retrieved July 5, 2011.