The Jesse Wallace Scholarship Foundation

Jesse Wallace Scholarship Foundation

When we speak in terms of the civil Rights movement in Lake County, there could not have been a movement without the luminaries that led the way. We all are benefiting because of their deeds.  We must be careful not to trammel the great things they did in a time when we as people were systematically, continuously, discriminated against in all facets of human life.  Pastor Jesse Wallace was one of them.  He was born October 1, 1920 in Lake Cormorant, Mississippi and headed north in the 1940’s.  First stop, the U.S. Navy Great Lakes, Illinois where he received an honorable discharge and then settled in the City of North Chicago where he called home for 60 more years.  He made one achievement after the other, as a Spiritual Leader, Humanitarian and Civil Rights Activist before departing this life on January 17, 2006.  

In 1950 Pastor Wallace founded and became CEO of the Jesse Wallace Landscaping and Black Toping Inc.. He was also responsible for a movement in the early 1950’s much like the “Underground Railroad” dictated by demographics, using his own trucks to move large groups of people from the south to a safer location.  He illuminated like a star, one way or another he was instrumental to everyone who needed him most.   This great work, a life of beneficence all began in 1946 until his death.  

During the late 1940’s and 1950’s, Reverend Wallace would send his trucks to the south and move entire families to the Lake County area.  The Wade, Hill and Barrett family just to name a few but his biggest goal was his very own family, The Wallaces, Clarence, Theatre, Larry (LA) and Lee all mentor under him and branched off into their own companies as successful entrepreneurs.  He not only relocated the people to this area, he supplied housing in a self made subdivision he built with his own hands affectionately called “Wallaceville” which was here long before Urban Renewal Programs were implemented in North Chicago.  He took one step further by giving employment to many of our black men with his landscaping and Trucking Co., when they couldn’t get jobs anywhere else.  

Pastor Wallace accepted the Lord as his personal Savior in 1948 and had roots in several local churches, St. James Temple, Ward’s Memorial and Zion Temple COGIC before being lead to build his own ministry for the Lord.  Pastor Wallace went from pew member to Pastor and in between he served as a Deacon, Licensed Minister and Elder.  In 1964 Elder Jesse and his beloved wife Mother Thelma Wallace were mutually led by the Lord to establish and organize a church mission and in 1965 he built Faith Tabernacle C.O.G.I.C. in Zion, IL., with his own hands.  Other churches branched out from under his great leadership;  New Way Of Life, Rehoboth, Prayer Garden, Pentecostal Temple Churches of God In Christ, just to name a few.

Elder Jesse Wallace was not only a Spiritual Leader he was also a leader in business.  During the tenure of Mayor Hebior, Reverend Wallace was able to secure the coveted and heralded ICC Permit (Illinois Commerce Carrier). Try to get one today. No blacks before or after have been able to acquire this same permit allowing Reverend Wallace's Trucking Company to participate in the building of the Illinois Toll road (Interstate 294) through Lake County.  Imagine this, black men driving trucks owned by a black man, when blacks weren’t being hired.  In fact, several white trucking companies also got their start working for Reverend Wallace, the Larsen Brothers of North Chicago, and Herkey’s of Libertyville, now one of the largest Excavating and Trucking firm’s in Illinois. Think of it white companies subcontracting from a black man during the 1950's, absolutely unheard of.

Reverend Wallace’s accomplishment still continued.  A major milestone, he had Black’s were working in good paying jobs.  All the dirt hauled for both sides of the overpass at (route 120) Belvedere Road over highway 41, was hauled by Jesse Wallace, when black men in the area could only get jobs as cooks, waiters, and janitors.

An activist he was! Reverend Wallace was the first black contractor to integrate, Downey Hospital, as known as the VA Hospital. His trucking company had the contract for the daily garbage removal for that institution. He also played a large part in integrating the Great Lakes Naval Base, being the first black contractor to work on the base.  

He was considered as a "Turn Key” having the capacity to go into the County jail and County Courts system and bring home many young black men who were taken advantage of by the system. There are so many stories on how Wallace stood before judges for so many people.  He helped to change so much in equality in so many different issues. Reverend Wallace has gotten so many released from jail because of his favor with the Chief Judge of Lake County.  Absolutely the first work release instituted for blacks in Lake County was brought about by untold numbers of black men released to work for Reverend Wallace or he found jobs for them elsewhere.

He integrated the GM Chevrolet Foundry Plant on Waukegan's lakefront in the early and middle 1950's.  He was the first to integrated Amco Tool in North Chicago when they would not hire blacks. He integrated Illinois Bell Telephone and Commonwealth Edison Company when they would not allow black contractors, he was the first Civil Rights Activist he was!  In the late 60's there were near riots in Zion at the High School and other places. The then Ku Klux Klan were making threats and of course we were responding in like kind. The Grand Wizard of the Klan said to the powers that be, that he would only talk with the Reverend Jesse Wallace. The Police Chief of Zion came to Faith Tabernacle Church of God in Christ and asked the Reverend to go and talk to the Klan. Because of that particular meeting, policies did change that were beneficial for our black youth in Zion.

In 1950 he founded and became CEO of the Jesse Wallace Landscaping and Black Topping Inc.  He was an Inventor.  There was no stopping Pastor Wallace, during the great flood of 1966, he started the Original “Helping Hand Center” giving out tons and tons of clothing by the truckloads to those who were in need. He also opened a “Community Soup Kitchen” feeding hundreds of hungry and homeless people weekly. His vision continued and in 1976 he established the Faith Tabernacle Food Pantry now known as Faith Food Pantry.  There is so much more history behind this great man space won’t permit.  
Pastor Wallace was our Local Hero.

Written in his Memory by daughter Deborah & Son In Law Robert Richards

Jesse & Thelma Wallace Because of You

Because of Thelma & Jesse Wallace the JESSE WALLACE SCHOLARSHIP FOUNDATION was founded by Deborah Richards in 2006 in memory of her parents for the sole purpose of giving worthy college bound students annual financial assist to be applied to scholarships and other needed school items.