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The Rev. Archibald Wallace, III, Esquire

Recipient of the Henry V. Langford Lifetime Service Award
March 25, 2011
Richmond, Virginia

Arch Wallace and Henry LangfordRev. Archibald Wallace, III, is an attorney and he is also an ordained Presbyterian minister. In addition, he is an entrepreneur, mediator, arbitrator, veteran of the U. S. Army where he served as an officer, business man, husband, father, and teacher. He also finds time to volunteer in community service through civic organizations, the Capital Area Agency on Aging at which he served as president, the Association for the Study of Childhood Cancer which he helped found and for which he helped establish the Ronald McDonald House, and the Ministering to Ministers Foundation where he was also a charter member of the Board of Trustees. In addition, he served on the board of the Richmond YWCA, served on the Advisory Council to the President of Union Seminary, and served as an adjunct faculty at both J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College and the University of Richmond.

A native of New Orleans, Arch grew up primarily in Greenville, South Carolina. He is married to Gena Wallace and they have four adult children and six grandchildren.

I met Arch 22 years ago when I joined the Rotary Club of Richmond soon after moving to Virginia. We often sat together and he introduced me to other club members and we talked about churches. At the time, Arch was serving as chair of the Committee on Ministry for the Presbytery of the James and he shared with me some of the issues the committee faced.

Arch was also teaching a Sunday School Class at Tuckahoo Presbyterian Church and mentioned that he had enrolled for a couple of Bible courses at Union Theological Seminary in order to be better qualified and better prepared as a Sunday school teacher. That caught my attention because I have had very few Sunday school teachers with that kind of commitment.

Later, Arch shared with me that out of his seminary experience he had felt a call to be a bi-vocational or supply pastor. He also told me that when he talked to the officials at Union about working on a seminary degree, he was told that in order to work toward a degree he would have to become a full time student. Arch tried to explain that as the second most tenured partner at Sands, Anderson Law Firm, he had a very full time law practice and that there was no way he could be a full time student. His deep disappointment was evident as he shared this experience with me.

I remember telling Arch that I wanted him to meet a new member of our Rotary Club whose membership I had sponsored. I thought the new member might be able to be of help. When Dr. Thomas Graves, the new president of the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, entered the room, I motioned for him to come over and meet Arch Wallace. Arch explained his problem to Tom, who assured him that there was a solution. He suggested that Arch come across Brook Street from Union seminary and enroll at BTSR, explaining that the three Richmond seminaries had developed a consortium. Any student enrolled at either Union, BTSR, or Virginia Union’s School of Theology could also take courses at either of the other schools; they were even encouraged to take some courses at the other schools. Tom assured Arch that he could enroll at BTSR as a part time student and work toward a degree and even take a majority of his courses at Union, he would just do it through BTSR. He did warn Arch that he would have to take Baptist history and a few other required courses. Problem solved! There are advantages to being a member of a civic club.

About a year before Arch graduated, Union Theological Seminary changed their rule and allowed part time students to work on a degree. Arch walked back across Brook Street and received his degree in less than five years, taking courses with what he considered to be the best professors at each school. He graduated in 1998 and has served in a bi-vocational capacity as pastor of three Presbyterian churches since then. I was able to attend his final Sunday worship service of his pastorate at the second church in 2004.

Throughout his career Arch has been an active trial lawyer in the federal and state courts of Virginia and in several states outside Virginia on behalf of clients in both ordinary and complex matters. During the past forty years Arch has been responsible for thousands of cases. More than 400 have been tried before a jury to completion where Arch had first chair responsibility. Arch has also argued more than 35 appeals in various federal and state appellate courts.

Arch approaches each problem looking first for a practical solution. When that is not available, Arch is willing to take on the trial mantle, focusing on those issues that are key, the client’s goals and the client’s pocketbook. Arch is recognized as a formidable opponent in litigation and enjoys a strong reputation with both the bench and the bar.

Arch has been active in bar, civic, church and political affairs over the years and has served in numerous capacities in scores of organizations. Arch was educated at Furman University (BA), the University of Richmond (JD), and Union Seminary (M-Div). At Sands, Anderson, he served in the management of the firm and was President during the time of the firm’s greatest growth.  At WallacePledger Arch has begun the building of a second firm, which emphasizes the avoidance of litigation through various pre-litigation approaches, but when this approach fails, the firm has the expertise and experience to handle litigation in the courts in Virginia and the church courts of most denominations.

In the mid-1970’s Arch was involved in a series of products cases brought by asbestos disease claimants, in which he ultimately represented a cartel of 53 manufacturers and insurance carries. He also served as a national coordinator for the defense of over 20,000 cases for one of these manufacturers. The asbestos litigation propelled Arch into national prominence where he was regularly called upon to try or assist in the trial of asbestos cases across the eastern half of the United States. Arch was also instrumental in the training of other lawyers so they could defend in their states. Since the mid-1970’s Arch has been in demand as a teacher of lawyers in the skills of their craft. In theses areas he has taught nationally and statewide in the continuing legal education programs mandated for lawyers. The calls for his services have taken him into trial in Washington, D.C., North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Intellectual prowess, expertise, practicality, compassion: these are the imprints Arch brings to every situation. They define his standards and all who work with him.

I have observed Arch at work with ministers who are in the midst of a church conflict who have been forced out of their ministry position. In fact, I have referred as many as five ministers to him in one week on more than one occasion. He and I have meet with church boards or personnel committees on numerous occasions.

A young lady contacted me after being asked by the church’s personnel committee to resign her ministry position without cause and without following their own policy documents. I received permission from her to contact Arch and ask him to call her. She explained to Arch that as a petite female only two years out of seminary meeting with a committee of mostly tall males wearing suits left her feeling very intimidated. Arch asked if she would like for him to accompany her to the next meeting. She eagerly accepted his offer. As she and Arch entered, the committee chair, who happened to also be an attorney, began to stutter and stated that it had come to his attention that they had not followed their own policy documents and that they should start the process all over.

The committee chair then asked the young lady what her departure expectations were. She explained her expectations again, to follow the process as written in her covenant that was spelled out in her call. Suddenly the entire committee agreed that her requests were reasonable and workable – the same expectations that she had expressed from the beginning.

The young lady told me that as they were leaving that she asked Arch if he knew the other attorney. She said Arch developed a sheepish and mischievous smile as he stated that they had met in a court case about six months earlier and that he had “bloodied” the guy up a little. This young lady has a new understanding of what it means to have an advocate – a Paraclete.

A minister in Virginia’s south side, whom I had referred to Arch, called to tell me that Arch had driven an hour and a half to their church to be present during a town hall type congregational meeting that was planned for the purpose of getting rid of their pastor. Arch’s presence changed the atmosphere and slowed the process down enabling the pastor to gain some control over his life and ministry and to work out a more positive and somewhat healthier departure.

Arch has made numerous trips to Wisconsin in church courts to be an advocate for a little lady who was being “walked over” by her denominational leaders. She has called me repeatedly to express her appreciation for Arch and his willingness to stand with her during difficult times. This lady, powerless in the eyes of many of those destroying her ministry, found new power and self confidence through Arch’s advocacy. He won some rights and opportunities for ministry for her. Arch has a strong conviction about reaching out to those whom others value very little. He has indeed made a difference.

Early last year, I did an inventory of gifts or service-in-kind of those working with the MTM ministry. Arch, who is very meticulous with records, prepared his inventory. At fair market value, his pro bono service-in-kind through MTM for 2009 totaled over $100,000. We have not done an inventory yet for 2010.

Arch Wallace has one of the greatest desires to serve that I have ever encountered. Not only does he embody that desire, he knows how to bring the best possible results from his energy and expertise. Arch is the epidimy of the spirit of the Henry V. Langford Lifetime Service Award.

Compiled by Charles H. Chandler, Executive Director, MTM Foundation, Inc.