Spotlight - Jim Wallace
1. You spent your early days in Port Arthur, and then came to BC. Tell us about that...
I was born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1951. My family moved to Bridge City from Groves when I was in the third grade.
2. Most memorable moment at BCHS?
Honestly the most memorable moment was when Pat agreed to go out with me and also help me with my chemistry homework. Otherwise, I would never have passed that class or married the girl who helped me get to where I am today; a proud father of two healthy wonderful much loved sons.
3. Where did life take you after graduation?
I graduated from BCHS in 1969, with average grades and immediately enrolled that summer in East Texas State University, (now Texas A&M University-Commerce). I was anxious to get away from home and to see if I had what it took to graduate college. Surprising I did well in college, receiving better grades there than I had in high school (much to the surprise of some of my teachers I am sure.) My future wife, the former Patricia Moon, also graduated with me from BCHS in 1969 (as class valedictorian). In 1970, we were married and she left Lamar College to transfer up to ETSU with me. Because of her excellent study habits which I did my best to copy we graduated in May, 1972, Pat, magna cum laude, myself, cum laude.
4. When did you decide on a career in law?
I joined the Army upon graduation and Pat stayed in Bridge City to teach high school. After my tour with the Army was up, I entered The University of Houston Law School in August, 1974. Pat taught in the Pasadena School District and received her masters in education during this time. Upon graduation from law school, in December, 1976, I was offered a position as an assistant district attorney in Harris County where I had been working as an intern for a year. Pat and I were both homesick so we decided to move home to Bridge City upon graduation. I was hired as an Assistant District Attorney for Orange County. I remained in the position for two years until I entered private practice in Bridge City. It was during this time that I was elected to city council for the City of Bridge City. In 1981, I was offered a very good job as an in-house attorney for a large oil company in Houston. I accepted and Pat and I along with our two children moved to Houston, settling in the Champions area in northwest Harris County. I continued to work as in-house counsel for several companies, including Vice President & General Counsel for Challenger Minerals Corporation and General Homes Corporation, among others.
5. When did you decide to run for public office?
Finally in 1994, I decided to run for judge of the 263rd Criminal District Court on the Republican ticket against an incumbent democrat. I won that election and was re-elected in 1998 and 2002. My plan is to run for a 4th term in 2006.
6. You've won the accolades of many of your peers while serving as a district judge. What are some of those?
I have been lucky during my time on the bench to have been selected as the outstanding criminal district court judge of the year for Harris County in 1998, 2002, and now again in 2005, by both local, state and national police organizations.
7. What are some of the rewards for holding public office? What are some of the challenges?
The most rewarding thing about holding public office is the doors it opens for you in life, the good you can do for your family, friends and others. Although there are far too few success stories in my line of work, occasionally there are a few and when you find you have helped a young person turn his or her life around and become a productive member of society, well that feeling is, as they say, priceless.
8. Working in the criminal justice system must take up a lot of time. What other interests do you pursue?
Besides being a judge, I also am an adjunct professor of law at South Texas College of Law in Houston. As an aside, I along with a friend own pizza restaurants in the area.
9. Any plans after public office?
I am now in the planning stages of building a log home on Lake Livingston where I hope to retire some day. God has been very good to me, allowing me to achieve far more than I ever thought I might. I just wish I was still 30, at this stage of my life, but you can’t have everything, although I am fortunate to say I am darn close.
10. Who had the most impact on shaping your career while growing up in Bridge City?
Without a doubt the teachers who believed in me, especially all the ones who said time and again, "Lonnie, you should be a lawyer some day; you talk so much.!" I never forgot that advice, and when I left the army I knew I wanted to go to law school.
11. Would you say you’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to?
I would be the first to admit that I have accomplished far more than I ever would have guessed. Having had average grades in high school, having been the first person in my family to go to college, I had no idea how I would perform in a college environment. I surprised myself each time I was able to finish a semester with a good GPA. Thanks in great part to the stability of married life I was able to focus on graduating both from college and law school. Without Pat by my side I have no idea what would have become of me. Let's put it this way, if someone would have told me when I was a senior in high school that some day I would be an elected district judge in Harris County, no one would have laughed louder than me.
12. Any advise for someone considering a career in law?
My advise would be to let nothing stand in your way if you truly want to go to law school. I firmly believe that regardless of your grades or financial position, if you set your mind to it you will find a law school to believe in you and admit you as long as you believe in yourself. A law degree opens so many doors and can provide a very rewarding future. I recommend this wonderful profession without hesitation, especially if like me, you have a "gift for gab." I live the law every day and I am fortunate to also teach the law. If anyone who reads this is contemplating going to law school, don't hesitate to drop me a line and let me know if I can help in any way.