Civil rights attorney John Walker has died at 82

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Times) — John W. Walker, a civil rights activist and state representative, died last night at his home on Sherry Drive, County Coroner Gerone Hobbs confirms.

The coroner got a call at 6:25 a.m. as is customary in deaths at home, Hobbs said.

John W. Walker was 82 and had been treated for cancer in the past, but told people that he felt fine last week.

Walker was born in Hope, Arkansas where he attended Yerger High School until 1952. In 1965, he began the general practice of law in Little Rock with the emphasis on civil rights.

In 1968, he opened one of the first three racially integrated law firms in the south, first known as Walker and Chachkin.

Between then and now, Walker has been involved in most of the reported cases which involved racial discrimination in Arkansas.

Arkansas Governor and Attorney General issued the following statements on the passing of State Representative John Walker: 

“It is with much sadness that Susan and I learned of the passing of Rep. John Walker. For years, I followed his work as a civil rights attorney and advocate. For the last five years I have had the opportunity to see John ably and passionately represent his constituents as a member of the General Assembly. John always was a gentleman and proved every day that you can get along with people even though there may be disagreements. He worked tirelessly for the causes he championed and for the people he represented. We will miss his service to our state. Our prayers are with his family and loved ones.” 

Governor Asa Hutchinson

“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Representative Walker,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Representative Walker was a tireless advocate on behalf of his clients and constituents, leaving a strong and lasting legacy with the State. He was also a man of deep faith, and I pray that faith gives comfort to his loved ones during this difficult time.” 

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

“I am saddened by the passing of Representative John Walker, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. He was passionate in his service to Arkansas and strongly advocated for his constituents, and while we were often on different sides of issues, he was always kind and respectful.”

Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin

“John Walker was my colleague as an attorney and State Representative, a civil rights icon, and my friend.  I am saddened by his passing, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this time. “

Arkansas Speaker Matthew Shepherd 

“When you think of Little Rock over the past 50 years, you have to think about Rep. John W. Walker. His passing leaves a large void in Little Rock and Arkansas. From his early days with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and his 1968 founding one of the south’s first integrated law firms, Rep. Walker is a civil rights icon. While he may be best known for his school-related litigation, that was not his only legal focus. Rep. Walker was an accomplished attorney whose cases often led to the creation of new laws and opened opportunities in schools and workplaces. Since 2011, Rep. Walker has served in the Arkansas General Assembly with the same gusto and commitment he displayed in the courtroom. He never backed down from fighting for causes he believed in. I appreciate his counsel and insight over the years, not only on politics and legal issues, but also as a fraternity brother. I will greatly miss our conversations. My prayers and condolences go out to Rep. Walker’s family. He leaves gigantic shoes to fill in the continued fight for equality and public advocacy.”

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr.

Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus Honors The Life of Rep. John Walker

LITTLE ROCK — Upon hearing about the passing of our friend and colleague, Rep. John Walker, the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus holds in our hearts and prayers his family and friends. He was a stalwart of the Caucus and the Arkansas Legislature. His loss will reverberate throughout Arkansas and many parts of our country. 

“John Walker loved his home state. He was the embodiment of a man who fearlessly and relentlessly fought to make Arkansas a better place,” said ALBC Chair Joyce Elliott. “I believe that history will show it was he who made the most lasting contribution to setting education on the road to equality and equity for every student. His legacy must inform our future.”

Like so many of his generation, he grew up in the South where racism and economic injustice were institutional norms for African Americans. He committed a life-time of service to Arkansas and beyond to make true the simple but profound principle that equal opportunity to realize “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” must, without exception, be available to all. 

State Rep. Jay Richardson, Vice-chair of the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus served with Rep. Walker in the Arkansas Legislature.

“Representative John Walker has been a fearless advocate dating to the Civil Rights Movement’s early major victories,” said state Rep. Jay Richardson. “He was in many ways at the tip of the spear during our state’s darkest moments, showing us the brightest path forward. Arkansas can honor the life and work of John Walker by finishing the causes he fought for, by not letting the struggle for equity in education fall by the wayside. I know we will rise to the occasion.”

Though often falling on unwelcoming ears, Rep. Walker never wavered on calling to attention that even today, the institutional, structural vestiges of racism and other injustices still haunt this American experiment called democracy. For him, the barriers to a high quality education seemingly most offended his sense of justice. 

In the midst of commitment to righting wrongs, John lived a life of fun and sometimes harmless mischief. He made us laugh. The Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus celebrates his life well lived.

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