A Class Entrepreneur Act: Remembering “Charlie Bob” Wallace (1930 – 2019)

A Class Entrepreneur Act: Remembering “Charlie Bob” Wallace (1930 – 2019)

Our little community lost another Fort Wayne GIANT when entrepreneur Charlie “Charlie Bob” Wallace passed away on June 23, 2019, after a massive heart attack (see page 10 for his obituary). The Fort Wayne Ink Spot sat down with one of his sons, Clifton Wallace, who was featured in last year’s all-education issue of the FWIS. He spoke at-length about his father

Clifton Wallace: My dad had an incredible work ethic; he used to work for the railroad track. He never let anyone deny him on what he could do. Him and my mother, Delories Dell Wallace, were a dynamic duo when it came to entrepreneurism; they broke his mold. I have to include my mother in this.

I think the driving thing behind him was… at an early age, he wanted to be recognized in a positive manner. And he accomplished that. He’s an icon, literally a legend in his own time. Going to be a long time before somebody else is going to have the name recognition that my father had. In our community, you would be hard-pressed to find somebody that hasn’t heard of Charlie Bob. He was always quick with a joke. He had the most engaging smile.

[Our home] was a happy place to be. We had our chores, we had work to do, we worked in the businesses, all of [their] kids did. And they had a bunch of businesses.

He had Wallace Maintenance, C & D Housing (both commercial and private properties), Club Zimmer, the Korner Karry Out, Emmett’s Lounge, Charlie’s Chicken, Kim’s Korner. Luxury Limousine…they were the first people to have a limo service in Fort Wayne. They went to New York, saw all of the limousines and thought that would be a good business to be in.

And my mother, she was an entrepreneur in her own right…I keep having to bring her up because they challenged the status quo. They were not hourly workers. For the most part, black people in Fort Wayne at the time worked in serving positions or in factories. Their businesses were service oriented, but they owned them.

They were staunch ferocious competitors...playing cards, gin rummy, or….my business is doing better than your business. And to a large extent that rubbed off on our family members and my siblings. (Originally there were seven of us, five boys and two girls. I had two brothers who are deceased.)

[My dad] developed Blackman Prairie Housing Addition, which is a housing subdivision up in Fremont Indiana, built from the dirt on up. He was able to put together a low-to-moderate income housing subdivision, in conjunction with state funds…49 homes were built. Charlie’s Tap was another business. As was Charlie’s Coin Laundry and Charlie Bob’s International Plaza, off of South Anthony Blvd.

The Blackman Prairie and the International Plaza…that’s where he ventured out and got away from wanting to be known for something more significant...here again, mission accomplished.

His name brand was just that, and he was one branding type of guy. Every one of his cars had his names on it, right where you open the door. (Red was his favorite color.). Everything about his outward appearance was part of his brand. He was classy.

The work ethic was on what it takes to build that brand gets lost. That’s the legend. Owning the business and showing folks that it can be done; that’s the accomplishment. You would be hard pressed to find somebody who said Charlie Bob did them wrong. I’m sure they are folks out there…not every business deal was a good deal for them [and vice versa].

He had failing health over a year and a half. His health gradually deteriorated. Over the last three months it accelerated; he had significant bouts with chronic pneumonia. He was in and out of the hospital. During his therapy, he was in the same nursing home that I was in. We were right down the hall from each other.

Saw him two days before he had his heart attacks. My last time with him was not like the last time I was with him…my last time with him was like any other day. We talked about the weather and current events, we talked about him getting strong and being able to walk again, and him being proud of my accomplishments and of my improvement. And me being an inspiration to him.

He knew the bible. He knew Jesus. He’s in heaven. I know that.

Since the end of March, Clifton Wallace has lived in a rented condo and not in a nursing home. After a paralyzing car accident in 2016, Wallace has been on the road to recovery.

I run Scrambled Egg(s) Design and Productions, based out of Northeast Indiana. In addition to producing in-house company projects, I also create advertising materials for companies and organizations, with an emphasis on interactivity.