Daniel Webster “#80 John” Wallace was born a slave in Victoria County, Texas, on September 15, 1860. He was not much for farming, and ran way to become a cowboy. While on the run, he worked for several ranchers in east-central Texas. It was through his work as a wrangler and horse breaker for John Nunn, whose brand on his cattle was a large number 80, that “80 John” became Wallace’s nickname.
Wallace was never content with just being a typical cowboy. He always wanted to do and accomplish more with his life. He saw a big future for himself, whereas other #black cowboys were happy with getting by and following someone else’s cattle around. Wallace soon realized that in order to do better, he needed a better education. He traveled to Navarro County, Texas, where he learned to read and write. He also met his wife, Laura Dee Owens, who was well educated.
By his mid-twenties, Wallace was on his way to becoming one of the wealthiest men in Texas. He made arrangements with his boss, Clay Mann, to accept cattle as part of his payment. Mann paid Wallace five dollars a month from his thirty-dollar wage for two years and put the remainder aside to invest in his own herd. Mann provided free pasture for the herd. This working relationship created a bond of mutual trust and respect between the two men, and lasted until Mann’s death in 1889.
Wallace ultimately acquired a 1,280 acre ranch, and was able to move his herd on his own land. He had a reputation among people as being fair, a hard worker, and a smart man. When “80 John” died in 1939, he left a legacy behind that including four children, his wife, respect, and an estate valued at more than $1 million. He was buried on his ranch. A state historical marker in Loraine commemorates his life and a school in Colorado City, Texas, was named in his honor.