Shelbourne Wayne Wallace was surrounded by his family when he went to be with his Lord on Wednesday night, February 9, 2022.
Shelbourne was born March 4, 1936 to Blanche and Russell Wallace in Kingsport, TN. Shelbourne attended Dobyns-Bennett High School where he was Senior Class President. There he excelled in the classroom and on the sports field.
Concerned about his size, his mother told Shelbourne she would purchase any instrument he liked in lieu of playing sports; especially football. Despite his mother’s reservations, Shelbourne’s tenacious 135 pounds earned him the nickname of ‘mighty mite’ and he became a leader on the Dobyns-Bennett Indian football team where he started as running back and set team records. His speed and athleticism led to success in Track & Field as well as on the baseball diamond where Shelbourne helped the Indians’ capture the 1952 Tennessee State Baseball Championship batting as a switch hitter.
When he wasn’t in school Shelbourne found himself working on local farms or stocking the shelves at Dobyns-Taylor hardware. It was one summer behind the counter of Dobyns-Taylor that Nancy Smith met Shelbourne Wallace.
Shelbourne’s performance in baseball earned him a scholarship to attend Davidson College in Davidson, NC. It wasn’t long until Shelbourne was captaining the ‘Davidson 9’ from Center Field. His lifetime batting average was well over .300 while his ability to steal a base frustrated many an opposing pitcher. While majoring in Business and Economics at Davidson, Shelbourne was a brother of the Kappa Alpha Social Fraternity, a member of the National Society of Scabbard and Blade, ROTC Lt. Colonel, a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Society and served as secretary of the Business-Economics Association.
The Pittsburgh Pirates showed interest in Shelbourne’s bat upon his graduation from Davidson, but Shelbourne was more interested in his wife Nancy. Soon after their marriage his commitment to the U.S. Military took Shelbourne and Nancy to El Paso, TX. Thereafter, Shelbourne returned to the area, serving in the National Guard and working in Western North Carolina for Home Financial.
Shelbourne went on to work for Nancy’s father and cattleman Mr. Bert Smith in Hawkins County. While working in Mr. Smith’s cattle business, Shelbourne’s ability for mental arithmetic earned him a reputation as business minded. Shelbourne soon found himself assisting Mr. Smith in assessing calf and cattle purchases on the spot giving Mr. Smith and Shelbourne a much-needed edge to make quick decisions when others needed careful deliberation before completing a transaction.
In 1961, with the support of his father Russell Wallace and uncle Ike Crabtree, Shelbourne became the youngest Oldsmobile dealer in the United States when he and his father Russell founded Wallace Oldsmobile in Bristol, VA. Shelbourne and his father Russell soon outgrew the rented space at 941 West State Street in Bristol, VA. Wallace Oldsmobile purchased a tract on Volunteer Parkway to construct a brand-new Oldsmobile dealership. Always resourceful, Shelbourne oversaw many aspects of the early dealership’s construction. One Thanksgiving Day, in an effort to get the building under roof before winter, Nancy prepared dinner for the construction crew while they and Shelbourne worked alongside on the building. That location now serves as the location of Wallace Subaru, VW, Kia of Bristol.
Over the years that followed, Shelbourne and his colleagues at Wallace Oldsmobile earned many awards for customer service that caught the attention of other up and coming auto manufacturers. The hard work of Shelbourne and his colleagues earned Wallace Automotive a reputation in the industry that allowed him to expand the Wallace dealerships to neighboring Kingsport and Johnson City where they now employ over 200 of our area friends and neighbors.
Shelbourne enjoyed all aspects of the car business, especially thanking customers for their business and support. He took great pride in keeping his customers and colleagues happy. Shelbourne understood that he would only be successful if his colleagues achieved success. He made it a point to establish a personal relationship with those that he worked with every day. An advocate of the virtues of patience and hard work, one of Shelbourne’s favorite sayings was, “Hard work makes the cream rise to the top”.
While his passion was the automobile industry, he did find himself in the cattle business for many years while he owned a farm in the Bristol area. Shelbourne’s life was enriched by his family and a multitude of tremendous friends. He would often say that he has some of the best friends a person could ask for. His travels and friendships took him around the world where he met some interesting people including President Reagan and played some of the world’s best golf courses including St. Andrews, Pine Valley, and Augusta National home of the Masters Tournament.
As a local business leader, Shelbourne understood the importance of giving back to our community and served in many civic capacities. Shelbourne served as President of the Bristol, TN School Board and was an active member of State Street United Methodist Church.
If Shelbourne wasn’t spending time at one of his dealerships talking to a valued colleague or customer, you would likely find him with his beloved wife Nancy; his daughters Kim Wallace Baker, Rebecca Wallace Avirett, Sharon Wallace Rinearson; one of his 7 grandchildren; or 4 great-grandchildren.
Shelbourne was preceded in death by his parents Blanche and Russell Wallace.
Shelbourne is survived by his wife of 63 years Nancy Wallace; his brother Gary Wallace and his wife Shannon; his sister Janice Clevenger; daughters Kim Wallace Baker, Rebecca (Becky) Wallace Avirett, Sharon Wallace Rinearson; sons-in-law Tim Baker, Vann Avirett, James Annear; special sister-in-law Ava Bazarnik, Ava’s husband Walt Bazarnik, and their children Brent Bazarnik and Blake Bazarnik; grandchildren Mary Avirett, Claire Avirett, Robert Rinearson, William Rinearson, TC Baker, John Baker, Laura Baker; special grand-daughters-in-law Shara Baker and Ronda Baker; great-grandchildren Catheryn Baker, Shelbourne Baker, Elizabeth Baker and River Baker.
A celebration of life will be held in the sanctuary at State Street United Methodist Church at 650 Valley Drive in Bristol, VA at 3:00 P.M., Sunday, February 13, 2022 with Rev. Laura Rasor officiating. The co-workers of Wallace Automotive and Wallace Leasing, past and present, are honorary pallbearers.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to State Street United Methodist Church or Crossroads Medical Mission, 650 Valley Dr., Bristol, VA 24201; Healing Hands Health Center, 245 Midway Medical Park, Bristol, TN 37620 or the St. Jude Tri-Cities Affiliate, 400 N State of Franklin Rd., Johnson City, TN 37604
Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at Akardfuneralhome.com.
Akard Funeral Home, 1912 West State Street, Bristol, TN 423-989-4800 is honored to be serving family of Mr. Wallace.