WALLACE C. “WALLY” READ
Wallace Read was born to a musical family in Lufkin, Texas. As he grew up, his father, William Delbert Read, played guitar and sang duets with his wife, Ella McCoy Read, at church, at home and at parties. A sister, Clarice, played the piano, and all six children sang, so there was always music at the Read home.
One day, Wallace's mother took him to a parade and a concert afterwards by the Stephen F. Austin band. He fell in love with band music that day, a love that would last a lifetime. He told his mother that he wanted to play "one of those long, black things." When they went to buy an instrument, all she could afford since she was now a widow with six children to rear, was a $6 trumpet. And so, a life-long love affair began.
In the Lufkin High School band, Wallace played first chair, almost always. He and his best friend, Robert Kennerly, had an unusual arrangement: he sat first chair one day and Robert sat first chair the next. They never discussed it, never even mentioned it, and never challenged each other. They just took turns playing first chair.
Aside from the school band, there was an orchestra which played for high school functions such as school programs and parties in the gym. Playing the big band music popular at that time, the group rehearsed in the living room of the Read home.
After high school, Wallace was drafted into the Army Air Corps where he had many good experiences playing trumpet and meeting other musicians. During basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi, he was to play in a talent show. The emcee asked him his name, and he said 'Wallace Read." The emcee turned to the audience and said, "And here's Wally Read and his trumpet." That was the first time he was called "Wally" and the name has followed him all these years.
On a military transfer to San Antonio, Wally was a member of one band and substituted in two others. He said "when you're in the Army making $21.00 a month, playing for the USO and making an extra $10 is wonderful." He received his discharge in Camp Blanding, Florida, and hitchhiked to get home quicker. He was welcomed home with lots of hugs from his mother, two sisters and three brothers.
Pursuing his dream of becoming a band director, Wally transferred from Lon Morris College to Stephen F. Austin. While at SFA he played in the band under the direction of J. T. Cox as well as a student band, mostly WW II veterans, fronted by trombonist Buddy Ryland. The band was engaged for the inaugural ball for Governor Buford Jester.
Married to the former Mary Thrasher and the father of two children, Cheri and Randy, Wally worked while getting his B. A. and M. A. degrees. He was hired at Timpson to re-start the band which had been discontinued during the war. After graduating from SFA, his first position was band director of the Beckville Bands where he stayed three years. Then Wally went to Gaston High School where had had Sweepstake bands. The Gaston Band also won first place over 80 bands in the Austin Parade Contest. White Oak was his next position. When he opened the door of that band hall and felt the air conditioning (not to mention the nice raise in salary), he had to say "Yes" to White Oak even though he loved his Gaston bands. White Oak was also a Sweepstakes Band.
The Kilgore College years came next, and what a great career he enjoyed there. For many years, Read and Kilgore College hosted the UIL playing contest for high school bands in Region IV. He enlarged the Kilgore Band's activities to include halftime marching drills, an award-winning stage band and formal concerts each year as well as all Rangerette performances.
He established a tradition of playing great music at concerts and drawing capacity crowds to enjoy it. Some years, he invited guest performers so that his students could enjoy the experience of playing with professional musicians and students from surrounding school bands could attend the concerts. Doc Severinsen was one of those professionals who played five concerts with the Kilgore College Band. Doc's daughter, Nancy, played clarinet and was a member of the Kilgore Band.
The Kilgore College Band and Rangerettes were well-traveled groups. They enjoyed yearly trips to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl Parade and halftime. Other trips included New York for Macy's Thanksgiving Parades; Norfolk, Virginia; Savannah, Georgia; San Francisco; New Orleans, and a great variety of Dallas and Houston performances.
Wally and his wife Barbara, an English and Speech teacher at Kilgore College, enjoyed these trips as well as foreign travel with the Band and Rangerettes. The Kilgore groups were welcomed in such locations as Venezuela, Hong Kong, Macau, Seoul and Camp Casey in Korea, and several cities in Romania.
After his retirement from Kilgore College plus three years at Panola College, Wally is still very active. He is a third term mayor of Henderson, Texas, where he and Barbara have lived for 26 years. A lifelong member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Wally is an elder in the church at Henderson which he helped to establish in 1980. He is music director of the Sounds of Swing Orchestra, a 17 piece big band which plays engagements all over east Texas, as well as Austin, Dallas and Shreveport. Accompanied by Barbara at the piano, he plays trumpet solos and gives musical programs for churches and civic clubs.
The joy of their lives though are their children and grandchildren: Cheri Read Long, husband Michael, and children Allison and Benjamin; Randy Read; Carol Woerndle, husband George and son Daniel Madewell; Jeffrey Jones, wife Beth and children Travis, Rebecca and Caroline. Jeff, a trumpet player, and Beth, a flutist and twirler, met and became engaged while they were in Wally's Band.
Blessed with wonderful students, co-workers, colleagues and friends, Wally says, "lf I had my life to live over, I'd be a band director."
Mr. Read passed away in January of 2017.