ST. PETERSBURG — Dr. Paul Wallace often bought unusual cars.
He had owned an antique fire truck, a Model T, and one of the first Jaguar XK-Es to hit the street.
But the prominent orthopedic surgeon who loved cars was best known for a dark blue 1938, nine-seat Cadillac that had chauffeured presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Dr. Wallace bought the "Queen Mary," as the car was dubbed, in 1956. It still had running boards, a jump seat and a case between the front and rear seats for machine guns.
He might have raced cars but wanted to be a doctor more. As it was, Dr. Wallace chaired racing organizations, serving as medical director for Sebring races for decades and as medical director for the first incarnation of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix.
"Who are you to feel you can tell a man how to make his living?" he replied when a reporter challenged him about the sport's safety. "I don't feel as if I can."
Dr. Wallace, a former chief of staff at what is now All Children's Hospital, died May 22, several months after suffering a stroke. He was 92.
" 'Flamboyant' doesn't sound right, but he kind of was," said Jonnie Swann, his daughter. "He liked to make a scene and tell jokes."
He pulled over for car wrecks or even pursued them from home. "If you could hear a siren, we were out the door," said Swann, 64.
Her father was a founding member and president of the American Association for Automotive Medicine, which studied the effectiveness of safety devices such as seat belts and roll bars. "Then we realized that many of the things that were happening in racing to make it safe to continue as a sport were readily adaptable to ordinary use," he said in 1960.
Paul Fleugel Wallace was born in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1921. After serving in the Army as a sergeant, he earned an M.D. from the University of Chicago. He moved to St. Petersburg in 1950 with his first wife.
Dr. Wallace married and divorced three times before marrying Rae Catlett in 2000.
He headed orthopedics at what is now Bayfront Medical Center, St. Anthony's Hospital and Mercy Hospital; and served as the first team physician for the fledgling Miami Dolphins in their 1966 training camp in St. Pete Beach.
In his spare time, he recruited Jimmy Appley, an engineer, to help customize his latest limousine. Dr. Wallace enjoyed a powerful look, requesting such additions as search lamps on each side, ornamental radio antennas, a dashboard siren and flashing red lights inside the grill.
They met when Appley broke his leg playing high school football in 1954. Dr. Wallace was the team physician. "He was always enthused by speed," said Appley, 74.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2248.