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Leo and Virginia Wallace Establish Second Scholarship Fund at Catawba College

February 06, 2006

Category: Academics, Alumni, Students


Leo '34 and Virginia Wallace '37 of Salisbury have established a second scholarship fund at their alma mater, Catawba College.  The two are and have been models of both commercial leadership and civic responsibility in Salisbury for many decades.

According to 93-year-old Leo Wallace, an education is one way to change, enhance and shape a life.  "Life will be happier for those who obtain a college education whether they make more money or not," he said.  "The quality of life they can have because of an education has something to do with it." 

Wallace's grandfather, Victor Wallace operated a small country store on West Fisher Street in Salisbury in the late 19th century.  But it was his father, also named Leo, and his uncle Jacob, who grew that business into V. Wallace and Sons during the early years of the 20th century.  His father's education at Davidson College opened him up to new possibilities and new ideas, Leo Wallace recalled. Wallace and Sons soon grew into a thriving wholesale dry goods business which served retail outlets between Salisbury and Atlanta as well as those 150 miles east and west of Salisbury until the mid 1920s.

When chain stores began to flourish, V. Wallace and Sons was liquidated in 1927 and the senior Leo Wallace managed commercial properties he owned.  While Leo Wallace Jr. attended classes at Catawba during the mornings, he worked in his father's office in the afternoon.  And, after his father's death in 1935, he continued managing those properties and acquiring more.  He married Virginia Shaver on Dec. 6, 1941, the advent of World War II.

World War II interrupted Wallace's fledgling career in commercial properties.  He joined the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant in 1943.  After his discharge, he returned to Salisbury and in 1950, started a real estate brokerage business there. He shows his N.C. Real Estate License with pride, explaining that his is number 354 and that he is one of the oldest active realtors in the state.  The numbers on N.C. Real Estate Licenses now number in the 35,000s.

Recalling his career in real estate, Wallace says he has been involved in the development and construction of more than 35 residential subdivisions.  But the one he is most proud of is Sedgefield Acres, constructed especially for the black community more than 50 years ago before integration and desegregation.  "Those homes were first-class, with water and sewer service," he explained.  "And the lots were restricted to prevent substandard plans.  The homes there gave this segment of Salisbury's population a first-class place to live." 

Other properties in Salisbury that he has developed include property adjacent to the Salisbury Mall and the Holiday Inn.

Wallace was active in the Chamber of Commerce; and on two occasions was elected to the presidency.  His service on the downtown property owners association and his 35 years of service on the library board are also sources of pride for him.  But this is a man who does not live in the past, but rather seems fairly determined to live in the present and embrace the future.  He still works at his Wallace Realty office alongside his two sons, Lee and Victor, and on his belt, there is a cell phone.  He has spent his life developing Salisbury and there are other properties waiting.

Leo and Virginia Wallace are members of First Presbyterian Church in Salisbury.  In addition to sons Lee and Victor, they are parents of daughter Suzanne Casey, who makes her home in Salisbury.