James Edward “Jimmie” Lewallen was one of the founders of NASCAR racing. He was born in Archdale August 22, 1919, the son of Roy Jordan Lewallen and Ella Williard Lewallen.
In the 1930’s moonshine was a major home industry in North Carolina, continuing long after the end of Prohibition in 1933. Jimmie made moonshine deliveries, first on his Indian motorcycle and later in modified Ford and Chevrolet coupés.
According to his daughter Rita, the cars were fitted with false gas tanks which held the moonshine. He would pick up the liquor in Stokes County and bring it to the Esso service station at the corner of Montlieu and Main in High Point. He would pull into the service bay and drive over the pit as though he were getting an oil change. The mechanic in the pit would open a panel in the false gas tank, remove the moonshine, and then sell it to customers from the Emerywood neighborhood who also came to the station as though they needed automobile service. The real gas tank on Jimmie’s vehicle was fitted up under the fender.
He was in the U.S. Army under General Patton, serving from 1941 to 1945 in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe, and participated in the invasion of Normandy. He was captured and escaped, was wounded twice and won the Bronze Star with clusters.
After the war he resumed racing, and in 1947 he attended the famous meeting in Atlanta, Georgia which led to the founding of NASCAR. He raced in NASCAR from 1949 to 1960, and continued racing until 1975.
He was married to Carrie Ellen James (1924-2013). They had three children: Rita Lewallen Walker, Gary Lewallen and Mark Lewallen.
His life was featured in the 2010 movie, Red Dirt Rising, starring Brad Yoder, Burgess Jenkins and Brett Rice, based on the book Red Dirt Tracks: The Forgotten Heroes of Early Stockcar Racing by Gail Cauble Gurley.
Jimmie and his family began attending Springfield in 1954. He loved the meeting and participated in many activities. He belonged to the John Jay class and helped to start the ham and egg suppers, which were a major fund raiser for many years. His daughter Rita says that he was a committed to Springfield as he was to racing – which is saying a lot! He never had any formal education past the 7th grade, but he was self-taught in many areas and could hold his own with anyone under any circumstances.
Jimmie was a gruff man, but he loved children and would go out of his way to help them. On Sundays he always had his coat pocket filled with candy. He sat near the aisle in the center, and children coming from Sunday School would reach into his pocket for a piece of candy.
He died of cancer October 16, 1995 and is buried in Springfield Cemetery.