Ernest Wallace, West Texas teacher and historian, was born on June 11, 1906, in Daingerfield, Texas, the son of Thomas and Lula (Barber) Wallace. He received his early education at rural schools in Cass, Morris, and Hughes counties before attending East Texas State Teachers' College in Commerce, where he graduated with a B.S. degree in 1924. On April 10, 1926, he married Ellen Kegans, a college classmate from Merkel. They had a daughter. Wallace launched his teaching career at the Linden public schools, where he also served as a coach from 1927 to 1928. From 1928 to 1935 he was superintendent of the Cornett public schools and afterward taught one year in the Tulia public schools. After completing a master's degree at Texas Technological College in 1935, he became an instructor of history there in 1936. In 1941 he advanced to assistant professor, in 1943 to associate professor, and in 1946 to a full professorship. He was twice a visiting instructor at the University of Texas at Austin, in 1938–39 and in 1942, at which time he completed his Ph.D. degree there. His dissertation, Charles De Morse: Pioneer Editor and Statesman, was published by Texas Tech Press in 1943. From 1945 to 1949 Wallace served as director of summer school at Tech and was assistant dean of its School of Arts and Sciences from 1945 to 1955. He was awarded the University of Texas Board of Regents Fellowship in 1938 and a Ford Foundation Fellowship in 1952. For several years Wallace served as a consultant to the United States Department of Justice in the land suits of the Kiowa, Comanche, and Kiowa-Apache Indians against the federal government.
Wallace was a member of several honorary scholastic fraternities, including Alpha Phi Omega, Phi Alpha Theta, Alpha Chi, and Phi Kappa Phi. He was also active in the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the Southern Historical Association, the Western Historical Association, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, the West Texas Historical Association, the Texas State Historical Association, and the Texas Association of Classroom Teachers. In Lubbock he was a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the Lubbock Rotary Club, the Masonic Lodge, and the South Plains Scottish Rite Club, which he served as president. He was also on the advisory council of the Lubbock Independent School District. Over the years Wallace published numerous works on the history of Texas. With E. Adamson Hoebel he coauthored his best-known work, The Comanches: Lords of the South Plains, in 1952. He also coedited Documents of Texas History with David M. Vigness in 1963 and was coauthor with Rupert N. Richardson and Adrian N. Anderson of the third and fourth editions of Texas: The Lone Star State (1970, 1981). His other books include Texas in Turmoil (1965), Ranald S. Mackenzie on the Texas Frontier (1964), and The Howling of the Coyotes (1979). Wallace was consultant for The Great Chiefs and The Texans in Time-Life Books' "Old West" series in 1975–79. Wallace served as a Horn Professor of History at Texas Tech from 1967 until his retirement in 1976. He became a fellow of the Texas State Historical Association in 1954 and served as president of TSHA from 1977 to 1978. In 1968 he received the Cultural Achievement Award for Significant Contributions to Historical Literature from the West Texas Chamber of Commerce. The following year he was the recipient of the Minnie Stevens Piper Award. In 1971 he received the Action Award from the West Texas Museum Association for "outstanding contributions to the enrichment and culture of the great South Plains." He chaired the TSHA Committee for the Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for the most important contribution to Texas history in 1974. In 1975 he was given the Outstanding Teacher Award by the Tech Phi Alpha Theta chapter. At that time the Ernest Wallace Scholarship in History was established by that fraternity. Despite a severe heart attack in 1972, Wallace continued teaching, writing, and serving in a faculty advisory capacity after 1976. He died at Lubbock's Methodist Hospital on November 17, 1985, following a second heart attack, and was buried in Resthaven Memorial Park. His papers are housed in the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech.