ROY BEN WALLACE
1901 - 1970
Although not much is known about his childhood, many students and colleagues will never forget how Roy Ben Wallace touched their lives.
Roy was born in 1901 to Ben C. and May McCoy Wallace. He was raised in the small town of Coolidge, just west of Mexia, Texas. He learned to play the clarinet well enough to major in music in college. He first attended Texas Christian University but later transferred to Baylor University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1925. Later, he did graduate work at Stephen F. Austin University and Sam Houston University and earned a permanent special certificate in instrumental music.
He began his teaching career in the small East Texas town of Elkhart in 1932 and taught there until 1934. He then taught at Norwood Elementary School from 1934 to 1935. In 1936, he became band director at Reagan Junior High School in Palestine, Texas, where he taught for the next six years. The high school band director in Palestine was Verne Adams; Roy and Verne are credited with developing the award-winning musical and marching skills of the Palestine band program.
Sometime during this period, Roy and Verne developed a movement known as the “Minstrel Turn.” This complicated maneuver allows a forward marching block band to execute a right column movement within the confines of a forward marching block, by executing a right flank and marching in between members of an oncoming file, passing through at a one step interval. As the maneuver develops, a perfect block will emerge at a right angle to the block marching forward, with the only change being the reversing of the right and left guides.
Because of the maneuvering innovations made with the Palestine High School Band and his use of the clean military “6 to 5” marching style, Verne Adams was named commander of the famous Aggie marching band of Texas A & M University in 1941 and promoted to the rank of “Colonel.”
Roy was then chosen to take Col. Adams’ place as band director at Palestine High School. His bands won numerous awards through the years, including the Sweepstakes Award 14 of 16 years while he was director of the Palestine Wildcat Band. In 1941, the band participated in a National School Marching Competition and Festival in Waco, Texas sponsored by the Region Six National School Band, Orchestra and Vocal Association. They received top honors. In 1946, one of the years the Band did not receive sweepstakes honors (second division in marching), they went on to win the prestigious Highland Park Marching Festival in Dallas. The Wildcats performed at College Station in a Texas A & M game, took part in the 1950 Cotton Bowl Classic and participated in many other outstanding events. Under Roy’s direction, the Wildcat Band built a reputation as one of the top high school groups in Texas.
Roy was named Bandmaster of the Year by the Texas Bandmasters Association and honored at the 1960 convention of the organization in San Antonio. As a special recognition, TBA asked him to conduct an Air Force Band at the event.
Roy and his wife Clo had no children of their own, but took an unusual interest in the band kids and treated them like their own children. Friend Sherry Albritton said, “When my wife Elizabeth and I became engaged, I brought her to Palestine to meet Clo and Roy so that we could get their blessing. We were very young but they approved.”
Roy was connected to the Palestine School System for 26 years and retired on October 15, 1961 due to illness. He was a deacon for the First Presbyterian Church in Palestine. He passed away December 17, 1970, after an extended illness.
Sherry Albritton, who was band director at Lamar High School, grew up and attended school in Palestine and was one of Roy Wallace’s students, graduating in 1947. Sherry fought a valiant battle with cancer and passed away in May. Abstracted from his letter,“A Former Student’s Perspective”:
“My first memory of Mr. Wallace was attending beginning band rehearsals with my new metal clarinet. …
“Mr. Wallace was very innovative for his time. … The Wildcat Band had some early recording devices. We had a reel-to-reel wire recorder, the only one I have ever seen. We also cut our own recordings on a plastic disc with the needle cutting small vinyl shavings as it turned. Mr. Wallace selected a small group known as the “radio band” which broadcast pop concerts from the band hall on our local radio station.
“In those days, all students had a one-hour study hall every day. (Boys on one side of the auditorium and girls on the other). Every band student came to the band hall once a week to pass off assignments for Mr. Wallace from the Prescott System curriculum for each instrument. This substituted for a private lesson program since no private teachers were available in Palestine.
“Several of us who really enjoyed playing got a permanent pass to the band hall every day. Mr. Wallace allowed us the full use of the library as long as we put the music back properly. Four of these students (Class of 1947) were All-State for two years attending the Texas Music Educators Association Convention in Waco and Galveston, Texas. Wayne Rapier, oboist, became a professional musician beginning with the Marine Band and ending with 20 years with the Boston Symphony. Larry Selden, baritone, became Dr. Selden and is now retired. Tommy O’Neal, French horn, was an educational administrator and Sherry Albritton, clarinet, retired after teaching for 50 years. Mr. Wallace encouraged us to always do our best and work toward perfection.”
“Roy B. Wallace was a pioneer band director and excellent teacher who influenced many students through the years. Roy and Clo had no children and unfortunately there are no survivors of his family. “