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.