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Wyatt Tee Walker

GREENSVILLE/EMPORIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

LOCAL BOARD MEETING

The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will hold its regular meeting Thursday, June 20, 2019, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.

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Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, Civil Rights Giant, Dies

By Thomas Jett, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, a civil rights icon who worked closely with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., died Tuesday morning at an assisted-living facility in Chester, south of Richmond.

Numerous public officials, including Virginia’s two U.S. senators, expressed their condolences over the death of Wyatt, whoraised heaven as pastor at Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg and hell as a civil rights activist.

“The Commonwealth and our country are a better place because of his leadership in the struggle for civil rights,” Sen. Mark Warner said. Sen. Tim Kaine called Wyatt “a man I’ve known and admired for many years.”

Wyatt’s death at age 88 was announced by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who described him as “atrue giant and irreplaceable leader.”

Added the Rev. Jesse Jackson: “One of the tallest trees of the civil rights movement has fallen.”

Walker was born to the Rev. John Wise and Maude Pinn Walker, both graduates of Virginia Union University, on Aug. 16, 1929, in Brockton, Massachusetts. He grew up in a home full of books but struggling with poverty during the Great Depression.

In 1950, Walker followed his parents’ path to Virginia Union University, receiving Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1953. Soon after, he moved to Petersburg.

During his seven-year tenure at Gillfield Baptist, Walker vitalized the struggle for civil rights in that city south of Richmond. He served as president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, founded the Petersburg Improvement Association and sued the city in federal court for access to the public but segregated swimming pool in Lee Park. The city responded by temporarily closing the pool rather than integrate it.

For his efforts, Walker was arrested 17 times. He had many notable achievements, including the desegregation of lunch counters at restaurants at the bus terminal.

In 1958, Walker co-founded the Congress of Racial Equality and served as its state director.

In 1960, Walker moved to Alabama at King’s behest. Serving as the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1960 to 1964, he improved the organization’s fundraising, structure, strategy and publicity.

Discussing his leadership in the SCLC, Walker once described himself as someone “who didn’t care about being loved to get it done – I didn’t give a damn about whether people liked me, but I knew I could do the job.’’

After resigning from the SCLC in 1964, Walker became vice president and then president of the Negro Heritage Library, a publishing venture aimed at increasing black history and literature in public school curriculums. He also became pastor of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem.

King spoke to Walker’s congregation in 1968, describing him as ‘‘a tall man – tall in stature, tall in courage.’’

At the church in Harlem, Walker hosted numerous African leaders active in opposing apartheid and colonization of the continent, including Nelson Mandela.

Walker was no stranger to danger. He braved constant threats campaigning for civil rights in the Jim Crow south and continued daring death in Harlem, campaigning and preaching against the drug trade. The mobster Frank Lucas once allegedly put a bounty on Wyatt’s head.

After suffering a stroke in 2004, Walker left Canaan Baptist and moved back to Virginia to live near relatives. Walker is survived by his wife of 68 years, Theresa Edwards Walker; his daughter, Patrice Powell; three sons – Robert, Earl, and Wyatt Jr.; his sister, Mary Holley; and two granddaughters.

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