Lorenzo Wallace

Born in 1919, Lorenzo Wallace grew up on Chestnut Street in Southwest Atlanta near the campus of Atlanta University. His father, Edward, attended Meharry Medical College and was one of the first black surgeons in Atlanta. His mother, Birdie, attended Clark College and worked as an insurance agent after Edward died prematurely in 1925. In 1937 Wallace graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and attended Morehouse College, where he majored in Economics and minored in Mathematics. After passing a series of exams for the War Department, Wallace started working as a messenger at the Army Quartermaster’s office in the Hurt Building in downtown Atlanta. He made $1,200 a year but was passed over for several promotions despite his education and experience. The better jobs were given to white workers.

When the United States entered the Second World War in 1941, Wallace opted not to enter the Army because of his experience in the Quartermaster’s office. Instead he chose the Marine Corps, which had opened to African Americans after President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802. Wallace trained at Montford Point, the section of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina set aside for black soldiers. In San Diego, he boarded a ship bound for the Marshall Islands, where he worked in a radar group composed of black and white soldiers.

After the war Wallace joined the United States Postal Service, retiring in 1974 as the transportation planning officer for the Southeast region. In 1987 he became doorkeeper for the Georgia State Senate and retired in 2010 as Sergeant-at-Arms.

Heritage

Wallace's grandparents were well-established in the African American community of Atlanta. “Birdie Florence Wallace. Her maiden name was Birdie Crolley Wallace. C-r-o-l-l-e-y. Her father, my grandfather was a Methodist preacher. In fact, he…

High School Graduation

“I graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1937. That particular high school was founded in 1924 with Professor Charles L. Harper as the principal. And he remained principal for – oh, I think it was about 20 years or more. But it was…

Montford Point

“When I got there, they had built a lot of, I guess I would call them huts. They had a lot of huts in a line, and they started with the first platoon…each platoon, the first platoon, second platoon, third platoon, were housed in these huts. They…

Shipping out

Editor's note: Lorenzo Wallace shipped out of San Diego with the 51st Defense Battalion.

Enewetak Atoll

“We found that most of the palm trees had been cut off where the Navy had, with their big guns, had just blown everything on the island down. And I didn't see any live Japanese except, we saw a few dead ones. You could, every now and then, you…

Graduation from Yale

“He went to Harper High School in Atlanta, and then, they tried to give him a scholarship to Morehouse – four years paid scholarship to Morehouse-- but he didn't want to go there. He wanted to go to Yale, so he went to Yale…It made me…

Congressional Gold Medal

“This medal was authorized by President Obama in 2012. And they had a big deal where it was presented by some general in Washington, and I think Obama was supposed to be present, but something else came up and he didn't make it, but anyway, it…
Watch Lorenzo Wallace's Legacy Series videos here.