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- March 30, 1981
- Vol. 15
- No. 12
George Wallace's Choice for Wife No. 3—Singer Lisa Taylor, 32—Meets Resistance from Wife No. 2
Cornelia notes ruefully that Taylor is the same age she was when she wed the governor in 1971—less than three years after his first wife, Lurleen, died of cancer and just 16 months before a would-be assassin's bullet left him paralyzed from the waist down. Like Lisa, Cornelia was also a singer (and a looker) and the relative of a powerful Southern figure; her uncle was former Alabama Gov. James "Kissin' Jim" Folsom. Lisa is the daughter of James Taylor, a self-made coal baron from Jasper, Ala. (pop. 12,970) whose assets include 68,000 acres of mining leases, a horse-and-cattle ranch and a long friendship with Wallace.
The youngest of the four Taylor children, Lisa has spent the last several years helping to manage the coal business for her father, who suffers from diabetes. But her first love is country music, which she learned about from her grandfather, a singer who frequently performed at rural churches and civic clubs. Soon after Lisa graduated from Jasper's Walker County High, she and her sister Mona began doing club dates and radio shows as—what else?—"Mona and Lisa." Lisa, who plays piano and guitar by ear, has written and recorded some 80 songs.
When Wallace made his first race for the Presidency in 1968, he asked Mona and Lisa to join his political road show. Fatefully, they did, and Lisa wrote Are You for Wallace?, a sprightly campaign ditty sung to the tune of Are You from Dixie? She went on to the University of Alabama to pick up a degree in psychology, taught school for two years and married an Air Force fighter pilot. They had one son—Taylor, now 5—before separating. After that she went into Daddy's business.
Her romance with Wallace began to blossom at least two years ago. Much of their early courting was carried on by phone—the governor being a habitual nocturnal caller. Soon members of Lisa's family—and the son and daughter Wallace had by Lurleen—were joining the couple at football games and for leisurely weekends at Wallace's retreat on Alabama's Gulf Shores beach. Before long Taylor's kin began referring to their prospective in-law as simply "The G." Though no announcement was made at the time, George gave Lisa a diamond solitaire engagement ring last December.
When the news did come out, the publicity-shy Lisa fled to a Palm Beach hideaway in a private plane, leaving behind a single message: "I just love the man. He's a fine person." Cornelia wasn't buying; she hotly denied that she might have gone to see Wallace, who gave her a mere $75,000 in the divorce settlement, just to try to wreck his new romance, and insisted as late as last week: "I have not given up hope of a reconciliation. I made a commitment to be a wife, and that's what I really want to be."
Cornelia has lost many of her sympathizers in Alabama, but the suspicion there is widespread that George's new love match was made to serve his ambitions and Lisa's. Around Montgomery, it is taken for granted that Wallace intends to announce for a fourth term as governor this year, perhaps on July 4—and that a pretty, down-home bride would therefore be an asset. But as one intimate of Lisa's sees it, the governor's happy intended has no motive but the old-fashioned kind: "Lisa told me that he's got more going for him than some six-foot handsome young guy. He has more depth. It's not all physical attraction. It's deep love and mutual respect."
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