Dick Wallrath had hit rock bottom. His personal demons had cost him everything, his family, his job, his hope, until he discovered a strong family and the love of his children were the true measure of a man’s worth. With a new-found faith, a sober lifestyle and AA meetings to keep him in line, Wallrath and his sons created a successful business and became the highest all-time individual donor to Texas 4-H and FFA, creating educational scholarships for deserving teens.Now the subject of “Deep in the Heart,” he’s willing to tell the whole tale – even the dirty laundry, if it saves only one person from addiction and helps them turn their life around. The movie, directed by Christopher Cain, features Val Kilmer, Elaine Hendrix, and D.B. Sweeny, is available online and at Amazon and Walmart.
AMFM: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO DO EVERYTHING THAT YOU DO?
WALLRATH: I’m a recovered alcoholic. I’m sober today for 16,530 days. 19 days, 3 months and 45 years. A number of years ago I decided to do something with my life, and went through a twelve-step program. I started from nothing, and ended up where I was at. I had five children, living in a rent house, and was unemployable. I was in bad shape. I got through the twelve-step program and turned my life around.
Before I turned my life around, I was at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, and I heard a man speak by the name of LeTourneau . He was from Longview, Texas.Mr. Kaiser, after WWII, who built the Kaiser Automobile, had a contract with the federal government to build Hoover Dam out near Las Vegas. At that time all we had was horse drawn equipment, and this Mr. Kaiser contracted Mr. Letorneau to manufacture and build the equipment to make The Hoover Dam.
I was still drinking at the time that I heard Mr. LeTourneau speak. He was a big man, and he was speaking from the heart. When he started his business, he gave 20% of it to God. After years of participation, he had 10 times more money than he could ever have dreamed of making, so he decided he was going to keep 20% and give God 80%. He said once he did that he really caught on fire. He started LeTourneau University in Longview, and was quite a man.
We never failed to pay a bill, never schemed anyone out of anything. When I sold it, we had sales of over $100 million. It did work, and we did pay our bills, with God’s help this thing really caught on fire.
I used my philanthropy in the stock shows, and the reason I did, is because I don’t believe in giving anybody anything, but if you help a child with their education, you give them the tools to make their dreams come true. No one can steal their education from them.
Our children have got to have it in this day and age. Where we’re at today with technology is just unreal. You’ve got to be educated.
So I started my own educational foundation. We have given over 800 $10,000 scholarships thus far. We give 142 a year, 71 FFA and 71 4H. The purpose of the movie was to replenish my foundation. I would like to use the profits from the movie to raise the scholarships to $20,000, and to be able to endow them from here into perpetuity. The 4H and FFA are the recipients, mainly because these organizations teach our children a lot of things that the schools don’t.
They teach free enterprise, and we need to get the government out of our lives. The FFA is 10 times more successful in Texas than the national FFA. Through free enterprise, we are partnered with LaQuinta Motor Inns. Anytime you’re traveling if you tell the LaQuinta you are associated with the FFA you get a 20% discount, and the kids get a kickback.
Justin Boots made here in Texas, gives $5 per pair of boots, and I think they sold over 200,000 pairs before they even started making them. It’s been very successful. It’s Free Enterprise. We don’t need the Federal Government in our lives, we need to get them out.
This is the way we do it, with free enterprise. That’s what built this country. It wasn’t big business, it wasn’t the unions, and it wasn’t big government. It was free enterprise. Small business. Some of your relations in the past have had businesses. That’s what drives this country and keeps it going.
AMFM: SMALL BUSINESS IS WHAT BUILT THIS COUNTRY IN THE FIRST PLACE, IT TOOK ALL OF THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE US. YOU’VE EXPLAINED WHY THE FFA AND 4H ARE PART OF YOUR SCHOLARSHIP FUND, BUT WHAT DREW YOU TO THIS PARTICULAR GROUP IN THE FIRST PLACE? WERE YOU PART OF IT WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG?
WALLRATH: I was a 4-H’r when I was a kid, and I got familiar with it. It shows that in the movie. I had been associated with the Houston Livestock Show, and San Antonio Livestock Show, and Austin, and that’s where I first started my philanthropy. After about 7 million dollars, I figured that money was “gone.” So I needed to start my own scholarships, and I did that. But that’s how I got to know more about the 4H and FFA.
The Houston Livestock show gives away millions of scholarships every year. I was going to talk to them about more scholarships for FFA and 4H, and they didn’t want to talk to me. That’s when I decided to start my own. I told them without 4H and FFA they wouldn’t even have a stock show.
AMFM: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE MOVIE? IT TAKES COURAGE TO SHOW YOUR STORY.
WALLRATH: I was in hopes that it would help others. Every family in the United States today has two or three people that are hung up on some kind of addictions, alcohol or drugs. Everybody’s family. If this helps one or two people with their lives, it will be worth it. I’ve watched it about five times, and I don’t like to re-live some of that stuff. But if it helps one person I firmly believe that it’s worth it.
AMFM: WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS STRUGGLING WITH ADDICTION TODAY?
WALLRATH: I would tell them to seek out a twelve-step program. I don’t know about where you are located, but up here where I live on my ranch, about halfway between Dallas and Houston so many of the young people are strung out on methamphetamines. You can see young, beautiful women, and their teeth are all rotted out, and they have a yellow look to them. This stuff is dangerous. If we can help one person, it’s worth the efforts we put into the movie.
AMFM: I LIVE NEAR AUSTIN SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO TELL ME TWICE. YOU’RE RIGHT, IT AFFECTS ALL FAMILIES. I DON’T KNOW WHY SOME DO AND SOME DON’T, WHAT IS THE SWITCH THAT MAKES THIS HAPPEN IN SOME AND NOT OTHERS. SO YOU FEEL EDUCATION IS THE BEST WAY TO TEACH PROPER ETHICAL BEHAVIOR?
WALLRATH:Yes, Governor Perry and I are close have become friends when I was with the Houston Livestock Association and he was commissioner of Agriculture. You can see the sincerity in his eyes when he talks about education, and I stole that saying from him. and education will give a child a chance to make their dreams come true.
I give a million-four something a year. If this movie is successful, I will be able to do a lot more. I have a lot of faith in the general public. I feel they will really get behind this thing. YOu can get the DVD online right now, or you can get it in Wal-mart all over the United States.