James Wiley Wallace was the son of Washington Wayne Wallace and Sarah Caroline King, of Knoxville, TN, and the grandson of Capt. Wm. Wallace and Mary (Polly) Chamberlain, of Blount Co, TN. He was an 1876 graduate of the University of Tennessee (then called East TN University), having been elected class poet. At one point, he worked as a clerk in the TN legislature. From 1880 to 1887, he was the editor-in-chief of the Knoxville Daily Tribune. He was named a justice of the peace in 1894. He also distinguished himself as an artist, particularly for his paintings depicting rural life and regional history. Often called "Squire Wallace" in newspaper accounts, a reference to his status as a magistrate.