HALEYVILLE - Henry Dana Wallace of the Haleyville High School class of 1978, celebrating 40 years, thanked not only his classmates but members of the class of 1968 for a special reason when he received the coveted Alumnus of the Year during annual alumni festivities Saturday, June 2. After receiving the award, Wallace, the first African American to attend Haleyville High School grades 1-12, thanked the class of 1968, for that was the year of segregation, which allowed African Americans and whites to attend the same school together. Wallace said he had one wish, that, “our races would come back together. If they would be like we are in Haleyville, the world would be a better place,” Wallace said. When introducing Wallace, Debbie Wood, president of the Haleyville Alumni Association, noted that Wallace’s class of 1978 had come together with a heartfelt nomination of him for the award. “After the nominating committee had considered all the nominations, they felt this person was certainly the candidate to be selected,” Wood noted. Wood then read, in the words of Wallace’s own classmates, many of his accomplishments. While a student at HHS, Wallace was always involved in sports and was known to carry a football under his arm before being old enough for that arm to reach around the football, Wood said, met with laughter from the audience, especially his class. Being a part of the HHS sports program, Wallace was elected by his fellow students to organizational positions in high school and was a good friend to everyone, Wood related. “Athletics has been and still is a major part of his life,” Wood said. “He was blessed to be able to sign a baseball scholarship to Southern Union Junior College where he played for the legendary Frank Gourdoze.” He also attended the University of Alabama, she added. After college, Wallace practiced as a paralegal while also acquiring the training for mediation hearings. Now retired from the Alabama Department of Agriculture, Wallace had served as executive assistant to the commissioner under five commissioners, Wood noted. During his tenure there, Wallace’s career brought highlights and accomplishments. Wallace oversaw the Hay Lift Project for farmers of the state to feed their livestock during the drought. He has also been the point person of several projects and programs, with budgets ranging from $600,000 to $5 million, Wood continued. Wallace assisted in writing legislation to better protect the farmers and consumers of the state. “However, he feels his biggest and best accomplishment was being approved Government Liaison by then Governor Bob Riley,” Wood said. In fact, Wallace served as liaison for all state, federal and local governments during hurricanes Ivan and Katrina for south Mobile County, she said. “They were able to obtain $34 million for the city of Bayou Labatre for infrastructure projects,” said Wood. “In obtaining the money, it allowed us to save our state’s seafood industry.” Wallace also received a proclamation from then Mayor Stan Wright acknowledging his leadership and thanking him for his service. An official with the Alabama High School Athletic Association for 40 years, Wallace served under three executive secretaries, including Haleyville High School’s own Herman “Bubba” Scott. Rising from the ranks of on-court/on-field official to the position of district director of basketball officials, Wallace held that position for the past 18 years and recently was asked to serve as a coordinator for several off the field/court area of athletics, a part-time position actually. Wallace has been able to officiate in several championship events including the first ever Super 6 Championship (1996 6A) and is currently one of only five officials to have worked championships in four sports. He assisted Greg Brewer, the former director of officials, in writing of the law for protecting coaches, administrators and officials from assault, Wood continued. “This law makes it a Class C felony to assault any individual that is part of any of these groups,” she said. Wallace spent 15 years officiating on the college level in football and baseball, with the highlight of his career being working with All-Pro Quarterback Steve McNair as a participant and the Magic City and Bayou Classics. In 2009, Wallace was bestowed one of his greatest honors to date, when being elected to the Winston County Sports Hall of Fame. “This meant so much to him because Winston County is his home and it is where he started,” Wood said. And, Wallace would be the first to tell you he owed his success to Haleyville schools. “I have been truly blessed,” said Wallace, noting he was proud to have given back to the youth of this state. “I want you to know something,” Wallace added, “and I look through the audience. Everything I am today, everything I hope to be in the future, I got my foundation right here in Haleyville Alabama,” he said, met with resounding applause. “I thank you for this award. I had no idea,” Wallace said. “I love you all. Thank you. Thank you for being my friends...God bless you all.” Wallace has been married 22 years to Patricia Ellis Wallace and they have four sons, Marcus, Timothy, Kevin and Deitrick. Dana and Patricia are proud grandparents of 11 children, including six girls and five boys. The Wallaces have resided in Montgomery the past 21 years. In 2011, Dana was called to the ministry of God, serving Marion, Alabama for 3 1/2 years at Zion United Methodist Church and Simpson Chapel United Methodist Church. He currently serves as Zion Fellowship United Methodist Church in Montgomery. Wood explains nomination process Wood also reminded everyone of the process of being selected for Alumnus of the Year each year. The Haleyville Alumni Association encourages those to send letters of nomination throughout the year to P.O. Box 91, Haleyville, Al. 35565. “When someone is nominated, we need to know about their accomplishments when they were at HHS and their accomplishments up until now,” Wood said. She also encouraged those making nominations to include as much information as possible without the recipient having any knowledge. After nomination letters are received, they are studied and considered by a alumni committee, not including officers, before the recipient for that year is chosen, Wood further explained. All of the nomination letters are then placed in a binder to be considered each year along with any new nominations. “The only true requirement is that the person selected must have attended Haleyville High School and must not have graduated from any other high school,” said Wood. “We try to keep the choice a secrete especially from the alumnus selected until alumni day,” she added.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.