George C. Wallace, 79, the four-time governor of Alabama and four-time candidate for president of the United States who became known as the embodiment of resistance to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, died Sept. 13 in Montgomery, Ala. He had Parkinson's disease.

Cut down by a would-be assassin's bullet in Laurel in 1972 while campaigning in Maryland's Democratic presidential primary, he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. He was in and out of hospitals for treatment of his paralysis and for the constant pain caused by the bullet that had injured his spinal cord.

In 1982, running for a fourth term as governor, Mr. Wallace renounced his segregationist past. He was elected by a coalition of blacks, organized labor and forces seeking to improve public education.

Mr. Wallace was elected governor the first time in 1962, with what was the largest popular vote in state history. In his inaugural address he said, "I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

For the next 15 years, he made a political career, usually on the national stage, as a man who opposed the advancement of rights for blacks, as well as the powers of the federal government. After notable clashes with Washington over school integration in Alabama, he took his campaign to the nation.

In 1964, Mr. Wallace was a candidate in several Democratic primaries, scoring what were then surprisingly large vote totals in such states as Maryland and Wisconsin. In 1968, he ran for president on his own American Independent Party ticket, winning nearly 10 million votes, about 13 percent of the total, in a campaign in which he vilified blacks, students and people who called for an end to the Vietnam War. He carried five Southern states.

In 1972, he returned to the Democratic Party fold. As the most forceful national opponent of forced busing for school integration, he galvanized supporters who had never supported him before. But his campaign effectively ended in Laurel, when he was struck down by bullets from a gun fired by Arthur Bremer.

Nevertheless, he won primaries in North Carolina, Michigan, Maryland, Tennessee and Florida. He no longer could be dismissed as a mere regional candidate.

Mr. Wallace returned to the presidential trail for the last time in 1976. A near-wraith, his roar of defiance was diminished by both physical limitations and time. National racial tension was, arguably, lessening and Vietnam was no longer a burning issue. His battle cry to the voters of "send them a message!" fell on increasingly unreceptive ears. Mr. Wallace ended up endorsing Jimmy Carter, who went on to defeat incumbent Republican Gerald R. Ford.

Mr. Wallace's presidential campaigns ended in defeat, but few really thought he had any serious chance. On the other hand, he strode the Alabama political stage like a colossus for more than a quarter of a century.

Forbidden by law to run for reelection as governor in 1966, he saw his first wife, Lurleen, elected in his stead. She died in office, of cancer, two years later. In 1970, he defeated her successor and won a second four-year term as governor. In 1974, with state law changed, he was elected governor a third time. He stepped down in 1979.

In his 1982 gubernatorial campaign, Mr. Wallace admitted that he had been wrong about race all along. In that election, he carried all 10 of the state's counties with a majority black population, nine of them by a better than 2 to 1 ratio. He retired four years later, an increasingly remote and physically tormented man.

"We thought {segregation} was in the best interests of all concerned. We were mistaken," he told a black group in 1982. "The Old South is gone," but "the New South is still opposed to government regulation of our lives."

Mr. Wallace came to national prominence in 1963, when he kept a campaign pledge to stand "in the schoolhouse door" to block integration of Alabama public schools. On June 11, 1963, he personally blocked the path of two black students attempting to register at the University of Alabama. The governor was flanked by armed state troopers. He defied federal Justice Department orders to admit the students, James A. Hood and Vivian J. Malone.

President John F. Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard and ordered some of its units to the university campus. Mr. Wallace stood aside, and the black students were allowed to register for classes.

In September 1963, Mr. Wallace ordered state police to Huntsville, Mobile, Tuskegee and Birmingham to prevent public schools from opening, after a federal court ordered Alabama to integrate schools. Helmeted and armed state police and state National Guard units kept students and faculty from entering schools. After civil disturbances resulting in at least one death, Kennedy again nationalized the Guard and saw the schools integrated.

On March 7, 1965, state troopers with dogs, whips and tear gas tangled with blacks during a voter registration march from Selma to Montgomery. The violence, which an entire nation was able to witness on television, helped mobilize enough support to enable President Lyndon B. Johnson to win passage of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.

In 1964, Mr. Wallace campaigned as a Democratic candidate for president and attempted to explain himself outside the South. He said he opposed the growing powers of the federal government, especially the courts and the bureaucracy, which he held up to ridicule.

By 1968, Mr. Wallace was a true national figure who had become the leading spokesman of forces opposed to civil rights. As a third-party candidate, he opposed Republican Richard M. Nixon and Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey in the general election, maintaining that there was not a "dime's worth of difference" between the two parties.

George Corley Wallace was born in Clio, Ala. He grew up working on the family farm. During his high school years, he became quarterback of the football team and won the state bantamweight boxing championship. When he was elected governor, he was known as "Little George" to his friends; he was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 155 pounds.

In 1937, the year he entered the University of Alabama to study law, his father died. The future governor worked his way through school, as a waiter, kitchen helper, taxi driver and professional boxer. He received his law degree in 1942.

He entered the Army Air Forces in 1942 and was forced to abandon pilot training when he came down with spinal meningitis. He recovered to fly combat missions over Japan as a flight engineer aboard B-29 "Superfortress" bombers. He left the service as a flight sergeant.

By 1946 he was back in Alabama as an assistant state attorney general. From 1947 to 1953, he served in the state legislature. In 1958, he ran his first race for governor and was defeated by John Patterson in the Democratic primary by a vote of 314,000 to 250,000. He later attributed this to being "out-segged" by his opponent. He vowed that in any future contest, he would be the loudest and most impassioned voice for racial segregation.

He won the governorship in 1962. According to a Saturday Evening Post story, he "campaigned like a one-man army at war with the federal government." If he did not abandon his populist calls for helping the poor through education and health care, those calls became a distant second to his harping on the racial issue.

The sad fact is that from first to last, despite the sound and the fury of Mr. Wallace's campaigning, little changed for the good in Alabama with his help. Throughout his years in office, Alabama rated near the bottom of the states in per capita income, welfare and spending on schools and pupils.

But change did come to Alabama in the form of easing racial tensions, and the governor who once refused to be "out-segged" changed. After his 1982 victory, he appointed two blacks to the state cabinet and pushed four others for committee chairmanships in the legislature.

When he left office, he was succeeded by Guy Hunt, the first Republican to win the Alabama governorship in more than a century.

Some questioned how much Mr. Wallace really believed in his race-baiting rhetoric. His joy often seemed to be in the battle itself.

Upon learning of Mr. Wallace's death, Carter said, "Following the end of legal racial segregation, Governor Wallace has been one of the most dedicated and effective Southern leaders in bringing about reconciliation among our people."

But when he stepped down as governor for the last time, an editorial in the Birmingham News summed up his career, saying: "Wallace said he was standing up for Alabama; he would make us proud. Instead, his acrimonious campaign against racial justice and neighborly love brought us shame. His words ignited the basest emotions in our people and stoked fires of hatred."

Survivors include two brothers; a sister; and four children by the first of his three marriages. His children included his only son, George Jr., whom Mr. Wallace swore into office as state treasurer in 1987 in his last official act as governor. CAPTION: George C. Wallace supported and later denounced segregation.