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Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. on the Passing of Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, an American Hero

January 23, 2018




Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. on the Passing of Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, an American Hero


I am so saddened to hear the news that my brother beloved, Rev. Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, passed away today. One of the tallest trees of the civil rights movement has fallen.


My prayers and condolences go out to the family of this redwood of the struggle for freedom and justice.


Dr. Walker was brave and courageous, a master organizer with a broad-based appeal. He was the most renowned executive director of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.


He served behind the scenes and on the frontlines of the movement, risking liberty and life in the crusade to free Birmingham, Alabama and other southern battlefields from the bombs and bondage of segregation. He shared a cell in the Birmingham City Jail with Dr. King and the other icons of the movement, Reverends Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth.


The image of these four pillars of freedom standing united and strong is a constant source of pride and inspiration for me and is forever seared in my heart and soul.


It was Dr. Walker who later deciphered and typed Dr. King’s iconic “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as it was smuggled out to him, written in the margins of newspapers and whatever other paper was available.


I first met Dr. Walker in 1964 and we formed a lifelong bond. He was such a precise organizer and spoke so well and thought so clearly – and calmly – that I asked him to accompany me to Syria to free downed American Navy pilot, Lt. Robert Goodman. Dr. Walker was chief operating officer of that successful long-shot mission of mercy. He chronicled the trials and triumphs of our trip in one of his many books, Road to Damascus: A Journey of Faith.


One of the country’s most outstanding and revered preachers, Dr. Walker was an assistant pastor under the great Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., the New York Congressman and pastor of the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Dr. Walker went on to pastor his own church, Canaan Baptist, building it over four decades into an influential and powerful center of love and liberation.


He was a highly valued and insightful advisor to my presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988. A graduate of Virginia Union University, Dr. Walker earned a doctorate from Colgate Rochester Divinity School. Dr. Walker sometimes preached the word, switching from English to Greek to Hebrew and back to English during the same sermon.


I have leaned on his strength, towering intellect and wisdom for much of my life. He has helped me through my midnight moments, aided me in interpreting the hymns of our struggle. He was an expert on African American gospel music, a passion that led to one of his other books, Somebody’s Calling My Name: Black Sacred Music and Social Change.


The music of his life soothed my soul and fortified my resolve. I miss him already.





Don Terry


Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a multi-racial, multi-issue, progressive, international organization that was formed in December 1996 by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. through merging of two organizations he founded Operation PUSH People United to Serve Humanity (estab. 1971) and the Rainbow Coalition (estab. 1984). With headquarters in Chicago and offices in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Oakland, the organization works to make the American Dream a reality for all citizens while advocating for peace and justice around the world. RPC is dedicated to improving the lives of all people by serving as a voice for the voiceless. Its mission is to protect, defend and gain civil rights by leveling the economic and educational playing fields while promoting peace and justice around the world.


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