Paul T. Walker Sr., a partner in the Washington law firm of Walker & Walker Associates who was moved to become a lawyer because of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, died July 25 of sarcoidosis at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 70.
"Throughout his life, Paul was always a seeker who always tried to better himself. That was his motivation. To be the best that he could," said his wife of 48 years and law partner, the former Betty Stevens. "He was also a humble man who loved humility in others and before God."
The son of a disabled Army veteran and a hospital cook, Paul Thomas Walker Sr. was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn.
When Mr. Walker was a student at Howard High School in Chattanooga, he was the leader of a civil rights sit-in at a downtown five-and-dime store lunch counter in February 1960.
"What began as a peaceful sit-in grew a few days later into a minor riot after a crowd of white students staged a counter-protest," reported the Chattanooga Times Free Press in a 2006 article. "Fire hoses ended the fray, dubbed by The Chattanooga Times as 'the most massive racial clash in the history of Chattanooga.'"
As Mr. Walker and other demonstrators were arrested and taken away by patrol wagons, they began singing "We Shall Overcome."
"It was the only high school demonstration in the 1960s," Mrs. Walker said.
For his role in the demonstration, Mr. Walker was inducted into The History Makers of Chattanooga in 2008.
After graduating from high school in 1960, he attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he earned dual bachelor's degrees in 1964 in history and political science. It was there that he met and fell in love with his future wife, who was an undergraduate at Atlanta's Spellman College.
At Morehouse, Mr. Walker continued his civil rights activities as a member and leader of the Committee on the Appeal for Human Rights in the Atlanta University Center.
After leaving Morehouse, Mr. Walker joined the State Department in Washington as a foreign affairs assistant. He received a Ford Foundation fellowship in foreign affairs and studied at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, where he completed all requirements for a master's degree except language, family members said.
Mr. Walker was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant which allowed him to study advanced African studies at the University of London, University of Ghana and the Institute for Commonwealth Studies at Oxford University.
He earned a master's degree in administrative science from Hopkins and was a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center.
"We were people of the 1960s. We were very conscious in those years that lawyers made a difference, and we decided to become lawyers because that meant freedom, justice and equality for our people," said Mrs. Walker.
"We called it the Movement, and by being in demonstrations, we knew the important role that lawyers contributed. They were important and loomed large in our eyesight," she said. "It gave us a purpose and we knew that we could effect change."
The couple eventually settled in Columbia, where they raised their children while operating their law firm, Walker & Walker Associates, in Washington.
"It was a general law practice and we did a little of everything. We did personal injury, real estate and civil rights," said Mrs. Walker.
"He and his wife were law partners and represented African-American farmers in the South in a landmark class action suit against the federal government for discrimination in connection with the denial of farm loans," said Baltimore Circuit Judge David W. Young, a longtime friend.
"It was the largest civil rights class action case in the country with at least a $2 billion settlement," said Mrs. Walker, whose firm was one of many who participated in the case but no longer has an active role. "It's not over yet and is in phase three, as they figure out who gets paid."
For the last several years, the couple were quietly winding down their practice but still kept an office at 1629 K St. N.W. in Washington.
Mr. Walker was a member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church for more than 40 years, where he served on the steward and trustee boards and finance committee and was a pre-marriage counselor.
"Paul was a whiz at finance, and he made a major impact on my life. He was an excellent mentor," said Judge Young. "He was a pillar when it came to finance — in which he had a strong background — and taught me money management. He told me, 'Never use credit cards, and save.' "
Judge Young added that he was not the only beneficiary of Mr. Walker's guidance.
"He was mentor to so many young men who came through Bethel," he said.
He was also impressed by Mr. Walker's modesty.
"He was a quiet and unassuming man who never raised his voice," said Judge Young. "Paul never tooted his own horn. He never had to. And when he spoke, the room always got very quiet because you knew he had something important to say."
Mr. Walker, who in recent years lived on Wolfe Street in East Baltimore, was an avid reader.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at his church, 1300 Druid Hill Ave.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Walker is survived by three sons, Paul T. Walker Jr. of Chattanooga, Dr. Tarik Dobbs Walker of Denver and Kumi Drake Walker of San Francisco; a daughter, Camarf P. Walker of Baltimore; his mother, Vivian Ware of Nashville, Tenn.; and eight grandchildren.
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