Wallace Names Black Veteran As Press Secretary
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ Frank Mastin Jr., who has become only the fourth black to serve in a cabinet-level position under Gov. George C. Wallace, said things are changing for the better in Alabama, where racial segregation once was the law.
Mastin, 45, was named Friday as Wallace’s press secretary, but his boss was not among the several dozen government officials, friends and family members who attended a news conference at the Alabama Statehouse. Mastin said the 66- year-old Wallace had a sore throat and a fever.
″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 drunk 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. I’m glad I’m here.″
Wallace was an ardent segregationist when elected to his first term in 1963, but he has moderated his racial stand in his last three terms.
Mastin, a former newspaper reporter who served in the Vietnam War and retired an Army major, joined the Wallace administration as assistant press secretary in November.
He replaced 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 his own campaign for governor.
″This appointment legitimizes the position I have held since the departure of my friend Billy Joe,″ said Mastin, who as a Cabinet-ranking official is receiving a salary increase from $35,208 to $52,808.
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 of Mastin.
Stanton said Wallace had ″a little sore throat and a little temperature,″ forcing him to stay at the Executive Mansion. Asked by a reporter if Wallace had any specific illness, Mastin said it’s a cold that is ″very fleeting and will pass.″
Mastin also was asked if he was concerned that Wallace might not run for re-election this year and that the press secretary’s job would be over next January. Mastin said the re-election issue is ″a bridge we haven’t reached yet.″