From rags to riches and from addiction to altruism: the life of a Houston businessman – warts and all – hits the silver screen. Best of all, the movie’s profits will be plowed back into education.
Dick Wallrath’s tale is featured in the film, “Deep in the Heart,” which opened at select cineplexes last month.
If you’ve never heard of Wallrath, that’s probably because he never shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars for your grand champion steer.
He has given millions to farming and agriculture programs like 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) for one simple reason.
“You know,” says the 81-year old Wallrath in a Texas drawl, “the difference between a city kid and a 4-H or FFA is that if the city kid don’t do his job, nothing happens. But if the country kid don’t do his job, something dies.”
And Dick Wallrath knows a thing or two about dying. He can tell you – down to the day – how long the “old” Dick has been dead. It was almost 45-years ago: the day he stopped drinking. And the full story spools out in “Deep in the Heart.”
“Dick had the tendency to get verbally and physically abusive at times,” says the film’s executive producer, Jay Hoffman. “And he allowed all of that to be put into the script.”
“It’s basically a story of my life,” adds Wallrath. “And it’s 90-percent true.”
Wallrath’s life turned around after he got sober, found religion, and started selling windows.
“I knew nothing about it at that time except they keep out some of the wind and some of the water,” he chuckles.
His business partnership blossomed into a Houston corporation: Champion Window Company. Through it, Dick Wallrath became wealthy – and connected.
“Dick was introduced to me by a mutual friend in Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas,” explains Hoffman. Perry has a brief cameo in the movie, playing himself.
After giving millions through Texas livestock shows to get country kids to college, Dick Wallrath decided to start his own educational foundation.
“The qualification for getting a scholarship is similar to what Houston (Livestock Show & Rodeo) has, only we dropped our grade level so we accept C students,” says Wallrath. He adds, with a laugh, “I was a C student.”
But Dick Wallrath’s greatest gift might not come in any particular denomination, says the executive producer. It just might be what’s on film.
“It’s a story of redemption,” says Jay Hoffman. “It’s a story of faith and it’s a story of giving back.”
And perhaps it’s also proof that “rock bottom” can be a beginning.
Says Hoffman, “Dick Wallrath can give you some inspiration and hope.”
Or, as Dick himself might say: “Hey, if that guy done it, I can do it.”
Wallrath says the lion’s share of the film’s profits will go right into his educational fund, which hands out 142 scholarships a year – each of them worth $10,000.