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James "Jim" Wallace (1950 -2016)

Inducted Jan. 2017

James Wallace | Saltwater Legend Series Hall of Fame inductee

To all involved with Saltwater Legends Series and the induction of my late husband Jim Wallace:

My family and I had an Unforgettable experience! This organization is SO Well put together; Professional, Courteous and all around Great guys. Your future looks Bright and Prosperous!!!

We wish you all the Very Best, Thank you for everything.

Myra Wallace


Texas State Record Trout, 13.69lbs 33.13inches in Baffin Bay, in 2/06/1996, Jim Wallace Texas State Record Trout,13.69lbs 33.13inches in Baffin Bay, in 2/06/1996, Jim Wallace

Texas State Record Trout,13.69lbs 33.13inches in Baffin Bay, in 2/06/1996.

Bio.

Jim Wallace: From Frenchman to Texas Redneck And Famous Saltwater Fisherman

Birth

James W. “Jim” Wallace was born to his single mom, Denise Berger, on August 7, 1950 in Fontainebleau, France. His natural father was an American G.I. from Tennessee who suffered from tuberculosis. He was evacuated to the States before Jim’s birth and passed when Jim was still a young child.

New Dad

Denise was a switchboard operator at the army base. In 1956 while stationed in France with the U.S. Army, John Wallace met Jim’s mother. They were married on October 15, 1958.

When Jim became part of this new family he spoke no English but he was a fast learner. John began teaching him English at home and a few months later he was enrolled in the American school in Fontainebleau. While John was teaching English to Jim, the extra benefit was that Jim helped John learn French! John was only 15 years older than Jim; he was young but a good Dad. John Wallace never had any biological children of his own.

Military Relocations for Jim and Family

A year later, the three of them sailed to the United States, visited John’s parents in North Carolina, and settled briefly in Tampa, Florida. For personal reasons, John re-enlisted in the Army for an assignment to Europe and they were stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany. During that period of transition France to North Carolina to Florida to Germany in less than a year, Jim attended five different schools and still passed his grade. The family stayed in Germany for five years where Jim attended the American school for the first four years and then enrolled in a French boarding school in Saarbrucken until the family returned to the States in 1965.

John, Jim’s dad, was commissioned a First Lieutenant and assigned to Fort Gordon, Georgia. There Jim attended the local school and made fast friends with a boy his age who lived nearby. Jim asked to spend a weekend at his friend's house. This boy had a motorcycle and Jim’s parents later learned that the two boys did a short tour of Florida on that motorcycle.

At the end of 1966, John was assigned to Vietnam, so Jim and his mother did some traveling together. Jim also stayed with his grandparents in North Carolina until John returned from Vietnam and the family moved to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. At the end of that assignment, John was facing two years of schooling and then a two-year assignment in Thailand.

Jim On His Own

It was 1968 and Jim had just turned 18; his parents decided that he was ready to try life on his own. They found a room-and-board arrangement with a local family. Jim attended drafting school for a while and then took odd jobs until he was drafted into the army. He was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas as a French language instructor. Other than an occasional visit with his family in Illinois and some fishing trips to Louisiana, he never left Texas.

Jim Wallace with a stringer in Baffin Bay, TX

Jim Wallace with a stringer in Baffin Bay, TX

After the military, Jim took various jobs with construction companies in Central Texas. He came from Austin to Houston to take work with a major engineering/construction firm. He worked, rode a Harley, grew his hair long, and transitioned a French citizen into a Texas Redneck.

Jim Meets Myra

Jim first met Myra Jane Harris and her young son Cliff when he and a roommate were living in Pasadena. The two guys invited Myra and her roommate over for a spaghetti dinner. The boys flipped a coin to determine who would date whom. Myra did not intend to date either one because she was engaged at the time. She had her ring but there was a problem - her fiancé drug his feet at picking a wedding date, so they cooled it for a while.

Myra’s roommate could not decide who she wanted to date and did not want Jim to know she was dating someone else. So on her way home to prepare for a date, she called Myra to see if Jim was around. Myra spotted his motorcycle across the parking lot but hadn’t seen him. The roommate planned to change clothes at the apartment so she could go out but asked Myra to “make sure he’s not around.” About the time she hung up, Jim knocked on the door. He asked about her roommate because he was going to the flea market and he knew she liked to go. Myra said, “No, she’s not here but I’d love to go.” It was her way of getting him out of there before her roommate returned. So, Myra and Jim went to the huge flea market downtown Houston. It was fun. At one point, they were separated looking at different booths. When Jim caught up with her, he walked up behind Myra, kissed her on the neck and put his arms around her. Myra says “It was a done deal after that.” Myra knew right then that there was something special there. Evidently, not all of the French influence had been neutralized!

James Wallace (1950 -2016)

James "Jim" Wallace (1950 -2016)

After that Jim kept calling and Myra’s roommate got the hint. Jim and Myra started dating. After a plea by her former fiancé, Myra told Jim she was giving him another chance. Jim grabbed her hand and said “if it’s just getting married you want, I’ll marry you.” In the next few months, Myra determined that her fiancé still could not commit. Myra was ready to move on with her life and to get stability for her young son, so Myra broke off the engagement for good.

Jim Builds a Family

About that time, Jim was on his Harley at a railroad crossing and was hit from the rear by a car. It totaled his bike and put him in the hospital, but he was not badly injured. After a night in the hospital, Jim called Myra’s roommate for a ride home. She had to work, so she had Myra pick him up. For Jim and Myra, it was back on again. Some time later, her roommate had to train out of town for two months and Myra was afraid she couldn’t afford the rent by herself for that long. Jim was looking for a housing change and offered, “I’ll move in with you, help you with the rent.” Jokingly her roommate said “Don’t ya’ll go get married while I’m gone”.

One Friday a friend called Jim needing a ride. Myra went out on the balcony and was talking to him as he got ready to leave. Jim called up to her “if I get back in time, do you want to go get married?” Myra said “SURE!” Jim got back in time, so he, Myra, and Cliff went downtown, got the marriage license, and found the judge. After he married them, Myra bent down and gave Cliff the first kiss. The judge just died laughing.

As they were returning to the car, Cliff lagged behind. He was nine years old, the same age Jim was when his mother married John Wallace. Cliff called out “Jim.” Jim just kept walking. After Cliff called him again, Jim walked over to him and said, “Son, from now on, I’m Dad.” The restaurant where they planned to celebrate was closed, so the wedding dinner was at McDonalds. That was June 10, 1977. The next Sunday they all went Myra’s parents to tell them. Cliff announced, “I have a new daddy”!

James Wallace (1950 -2016)

James "Jim" Wallace (1950 -2016)

The first Christmas together they were still in the apartment. Cliff wanted a bicycle so bad, but after all the presents were opened, there was no bike. Jim very sternly said “OK, son, I want you to clean up all this mess and take it out to the garbage right now.” When Cliff opened the door, there stood a new bike. He turned around with tears rolling down his cheeks and leaped into Jim’s arms.

Not long after that the Wallaces moved in with her parents and began to build a house nearby. Jim worked on it every evening and weekends. Within three months he had the house ready to occupy.

J. Wallace Construction

Myra remembers being worried when she was pregnant and Jim wanted to start his own business. But the first time he turned in an estimate on a job, he had accidentally figured high but still won it. Jim made a big profit which formed the nest egg for starting his business. That was 1980 when Jim started his business; the same year that his daughter, Jamie Dee Wallace was born.

Jim first started with residential remodeling. He did interior renovations and built carports and decks. The main clients he developed as his business grew were Sellers Brothers, Food Town, and Gerlands, where he stayed busy renovating grocery stores. He even did major renovations for a bar in the Montrose area.

Jim Starts Fishing

When Jim and Myra first married, they would get up on Saturday morning, take Cliff, go by the store and get deli ham and French bread. With cane poles they would go to the jetties. The trio would fish all day. Jim kept watching serious fishermen catching real fish and he got the bug. His first rig was a john boat he could put in the back of the pickup. Then, he started wade fishing. Soon he was making friends with fishermen who would take him out in their boats.

James Wallace (1950 -2016)

James "Jim" Wallace (1950 -2016)

So eventually, Jim got his own boat. He had developed his construction crews so that he got them organized and headed to the jobs while he headed for Galveston Bay. Many a day he would manage his business via cell phone while he was on the bay fishing. At those times when the grocery store renovation was underway, most of the in-store work was done at night after the store closed. So that provided more daylight time to fish. Jim was always eager to fish. One evening he hurriedly packed, excited with the prospect of a weekend fishing on the bay. He didn’t double check his hitch and when he made a quick turn onto Old Galveston Road, his boat trailer disconnected and plowed straight ahead into an abandoned building. A police officer who made the scene and noted there was no serious damage, wrote on his booklet, ripped out a sheet and handed it to Jim. That was when the officer said the action was for the bystanders; it wasn’t a ticket and no charge would be made. So Jim hooked up the boat and continued on his trip.

Jim wasn’t much into eating the fish. Many times he would come into dock and give away his catch. He just liked to catch them. One brother-in-law told how Jim would call and tell him to come get some fish. He’d say, “You’ll have to clean ‘em.” But by the time the recipient arrived, Jim would have them all fileted and in bags for the freezer.

Jim caught redfish, flounder, ling, and sharks, but the speckled trout was his primary interest. He liked the search, the chase, and the fight. He was really an expert on Galveston Bay and Baffin Bay. He even made a few sorties into Louisiana to check out the action there.

James Wallace (1950 -2016)

James Wallace (1950 -2016)

Jim made close friends of those he met on the water. And as fisherman do, they all shared stories about locations, gear, lures -- the little secrets of saltwater fishing. Jim became highly proficient and never tired of the sport. He won two saltwater tournaments where the prize was boat, motor and trailer. He had a number of trophy fish mounted and made photos of his big stringers, so heavy he was stooped over to carry them on his back. Jim kept a boat at Baffin Bay for a time and learned the times and places to find the big ones.

Baffin Bay was where he caught the State Record Speckled Trout on February 6th 1996. For all his expertise, Jim will be inducted into the Saltwater Legend Series Hall of Fame in 2017, only the second person to be so honored.

Jim met with a fatal accident at his home on October 19, 2016. He was alone at home when the accident occurred and was unable to summon help before he passed. There will be a gathering to scatter his ashes on Baffin Bay at a date to be announced. He is survived by his father John Wallace of Chicago, Illinois; his wife Myra Jane Wallace and daughter Jamie Dee Wallace of Houston, Texas. His mother predeceased him as did his adopted son Cliff Darrin Wallace who died in an auto accident in 1983 at the age of 14 years.

James Wallace (1950 -2016)

James Wallace (1950 -2016)

He’d probably been fishing about 5 years when he met a black man down at Texas City. They were fishing after a storm and they were leaving the dock. The other man was driving the boat. He gunned it and it hit a log. It threw them both out of the boat; it started spinning. They were both in waders. Jim saw the man, said hold on while I get in the boat. Jim got in and got the motor turned off but the man was gone. They didn’t find his body until the next day. That’s the first time I ever saw Jim cry. I remember going to the funeral on a rainy, cold day. It was terrible.

1983 Cliff was killed. He was Myra’s rock during that tragedy. Cliff took Jim’s name but they never officially had him adopted. Jim was a very stern father. No compliments came easy.

We were sitting at the kitchen table. Two of Jim’s men were there. Cliff had called to see if he could ride home with a friend. I had said yes, but Jim was angry that I had. We were having lamb chops and that’s when Larry showed up at the door. Larry also called us.

Mom and Dad were in East Texas. Myra was mad at Larry for calling them. They were due home the next day anyway and we didn’t want them to drive home all that way with that grief on their minds.

I hated Larry for a long time because he told me Cliff was dead. Martha was in the car. I went running out the front door and she met me.

A girl that was a member at FBC Genoa was on a bus that went by the accident. She didn’t know for sure, but she thought Cliff was in that car. She got the word to Larry. The school pastor drove up on the accident. He went over to Cliff while they waited for the ambulance. He told Myra, “Cliff looked up at me and then he shut his eyes and saw Jesus”.

Jim’s accident was Oct. 19th. Myra found out on the 20th.

Ed asked about a ceremony at Baffin Bay. Myra said there wouldn’t be a ceremony. But whoever wants to go out can when they scatter the ashes.

Ed told Myra the story of when Jim caught his record fish, we were having some dirt spread here on our yard. The guy on the tractor Ed told him about Jim catching that fish and he looked at Ed and said “that was my fish”. He was just about to leave to go to Baffin Bay. He said I have a cabin right there where that fish was and that’s my fish.

Fishermen are a weird breed.


James Wallace (1950 -2016)
James Wallace (1950 -2016)
James Wallace (1950 -2016)
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