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Black Veteran Named Wallace Press Secretary; Wallace Out With Cold

February 22, 1986

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ Gov. George C. Wallace on Friday named Frank Mastin Jr., a black man who once had to ride through Montgomery in the back of a bus, to the Cabinet-level post of press secretary.

Wallace was not among several dozen government officials, friends and family members who crowded into a Statehouse conference room for the announcement. Mastin said Wallace had a sore throat and fever.

Mastin, 45, a retired Army major and Vietnam veteran, is the fourth black person to serve in the Cabinet under Wallace, who was an ardent segregationist during his first term in 1963 but has moderated his racial stand in his last three terms.

Mastin, who worked as a newspaper reporter after retiring from the military, joined the Wallace administration as assistant press secretary last November, replacing another black, Hezekiah Wagstaff, who was fired by Wallace after openly criticizing the governor in a staff dispute.

Mastin became acting press secretary when Wallace’s long-time spokesman, Billy Joe Camp, left a month ago to mount a campaign for governor.

″This appointment legitimizes the position I have held since the departure of my friend Billy Joe,″ said Mastin, who is receiving a salary increase from $35,208 to $52,808.

Mastin said it was ″especially gratifying″ to become a member of the Cabinet for the governor of Alabama.

″I grew up here in the days preceding the bus boycott and all that,″ said Mastin. ″I’ve ridden in the back of the bus and drank from the special water fountains.″

In the Army, he said, ″I lost cognizance of the fact that I was black. That’s a good feeling. And that’s the way I feel now.″

″Changes have occurred over the years for the better,″ said Mastin. ″I’m glad I’m here.″

Elvin Stanton, the governor’s executive secretary, filled in for Wallace to formally announce Mastin’s selection. ″I’ve never seen anyone with more enthusiasm and more dedication,″ Stanton said.

Stanton said Wallace had ″a little sore throat and a little temperature,″ forcing him to stay at the Executive Mansion. Asked if Wallace had a specific illness, Mastin said it’s a cold that is ″very fleeting and will pass.″

Asked if he was concerned that Wallace might not run for re-election this year, Mastin said, that was ″a bridge we haven’t reached yet.″

As for his own future, he said, ″When you do a good job, you don’t have to worry about that sort of thing.″

His goal now, he said, ″is just to work my tail off.″

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