William Stewart Walker

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William Stewart Walker​

(Army Lieutenant Colonel
and Louisiana political activist)

Political party Republican candidate for United States House of Representatives, 8th congressional district, 1964​

Born October 10, 1914​
Wyatt Community
Jackson Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died February 6, 1999 (aged 84)​
Alexandria
Rapides Parish, Louisiana

Resting place:
Transport Cemetery in Dodson in Winn Parish, Louisiana​

Spouse Mary Elizabeth Abel Walker (married, 1940-1999, his death)

Children:
​ Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Walker
​ Stewart A. Walker
​ William T. "Will" Walker​
Parents:
William Thomas and Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Stovall Walker​

William Stewart Walker, usually known as Stewart Walker (October 6, 1914 – February 6, 1999), was a lieutenant colonel froom Winnfield Louisiana, who during World War II as a United States Army major, rescued 380 of his fellow soldiers from behind enemy lines in Belgium in December 1944. In 1964, he ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for Louisiana's since disbanded 8th congressional district seat in the United States House of Representatives.​

Background

Walker was born in the Wyatt Community of southern Jackson Parish just north of the Winn Parish line in north Louisiana, to William Thomas Walker and the former Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Stovall (1877–1951), Walker was descended from a large and influential family. William Thomas and Lizzie Walker married in 1896 and had ten other children: Charles Elmer Walker (1897–1941), Pyburn Elton Walker (1899–1987), Edgar Lee "Ed" Walker (1901–1972), Vester Walker (1902–1906), Gladys Oneta Walker (1904–1963), William Elmo Walker (1905–1956), L. Z. Walker (1907–1993), Grace Mae Walker (1909–1991), Edwin Olen Walker (1911–1978), and George Thomas Walker, Sr. (1913–2011).[1] At the time of his mother's death in 1951, the obituary lists Walker as a lieutenant colonel in Vienna, Austria. "Ed" Walker was a football coach at the University of Mississippi at Oxford who led his team to an early Orange Bowl competition, and Olen Walker had been a college football player. George T. Walker, the only sibling to survive William S. Walker, was a dean at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches and the retired president of the University of Louisiana at Monroe.[2]

Walker was a cousin of Morgan W. Walker, Sr., an Alexandria businessman who was president and founder of Continental Trailways.[3]

Walker graduated from Northwestern State University. On September 1, 1940, he married the former Mary Elizabeth Abel (November 29, 1911 – September 2, 1999), a music teacher in Winnfield and the daughter of Florence Kees (1875-1949) and Perry Kees Abel, Sr. (1867-1966).[4]

Heroic military service

Walker's military exploits in December 1944 were related by the Associated Press war correspondent Kenneth L. Dixon, later of The Baton Rouge Advocate. In an article entitled "Major William S. Walker Leads Yanks From Nazis Lines In Daring Exploit; Beat Off Numerous Attacks In 6 Days," Dixon describes Walker as having used "cage strategy" to bring his men to safety. Dixon reported that the men had been "isolated and encircled for five days and nights" east of Marche, Belgium. ​ Dixon described the exploits as:​

  • (1) penetration of enemy lines for more than thirty miles,​
  • (2) trapped by three Panzer divisions,​
  • (3) fighting a stealth strategy to keep the Nazis confused until the Americans' fuel supplies were exhausted​,
  • (4) digging into a village to thwart an enemy counterattack​,
  • (5) refusal to surrender no matter how hopeless their prospects appeared.[5]

Walker carefully conserved his gasoline and still tried to strike through the Nazi parallel lines. Each attempt encountered overwhelming antitank, mortar, and artillery resistance. "Finally we closed up for the night there on the road, with both ends digging in," Walker was quoted by Dixon. Soon a radio message from headquarters ordered the men to fight their way back to the Allied lines.[5]

Walker directed the task force against a large enemy infantry force. He spotted a village on a high, mostly barren hill, and the task force pushed through to reach the town. Hogan had already arrived there four hours earlier. Using their last fuel, the Americans moved their tanks, half-tracks, and artillery pieces to seven roads leading from town. They then erected roadblocks."[5]

On December 23, 1944, pilots in unarmed C-47s attempted unsuccessfully to fly in supplies. On December 24, three German officers appeared in half-tracks bearing a white flag. They told Hogan that the Allied position was hopeless. The men saluted when Hogan replied that he had been ordered to fight to the finish. Lieutenant Harold L. W. Randall of White Cloud, Kansas, led an exploratory patrol. On Christmas Day, the force was ordered to try to make a run for it. The men blackened their faces and removed their helmets to confuse enemy patrols. They damaged their armored vehicles to make them useless to the enemy. Hogan's men hiked over terrain so rugged that the Nazis had not thought it necessary to man the areas. Finally, on December 26, all but twenty of the four hundred men returned in triumph.[5]

Walker's subsequent activities were thereafter reported by The New Orleans Times Picayune under the headline "'Task Force Hogan' Back from New Armored Raid Deep into Germany".[6]

There is no evidence that Walker received any medals or commendation for his work in the relief of the soldiers in Belgium.​

Republican congressional campaign, 1964

On returning to Louisiana after his military career ended in compulsory retirement, Walker taught military science for a time at his alma mater, Northwestern State University, where his brother, George T. Walker, was then the dean.[7]

He soon became active in the budding movement to establish a competitive Republican Party in Louisiana, having first been a candidate for the Louisiana State Senate in the general election held on March 3, 1964, the same contest in which Charlton Lyons of Shreveport, who also had Winn Parish ties, carried the Republican banner for governor. Walker was defeated, 81-19 percent, by the Democratic nominee, former state Representative W. L. Rambo of Georgetown in Grant Parish.[8] who was allied with the Long political faction and was even to a member of the Long family.​

That summer, Walker was one of twenty delegates from Louisiana to the Republican National Convention in San Francisco, California which nominated U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona in the race against U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson.[9] Four congressional nominees from Louisiana were invited to meet privately with former President Dwight Eisenhower, who endorsed the GOP slate, including Walker, future Governor David C. Treen, of suburban New Orleans, publisher Robert "Bob" Angers of Lafayette, and businessman Floyd O. Crawford (1907–1995) of Baton Rouge, who opposed incumbent Representative and former gubernatorial candidate James Hobson "Jimmy" Morrison, Sr. (1908-2000) of Hammond, Louisiana.[10]

Walker's opponent was Speedy Long, an attorney and a former state senator from Jena in LaSalle Parish. Considered the most conservative of the Longs, Speedy had unseated his cousin, Gillis William Long (1923-1985) of Alexandria, in the Democratic primary in the summer of 1964. Walker's showing, a half percent better than Treen received in his race against the Democrat Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr. (1914-1972), may have been a reflection of continuing Long factional divisions, which had appeared in 1963 in the gubernatorial primary. In that campaign, U.S. Representative Gillis Long was endorsed by U.S. Senator Russell Long, the son of Huey Pierce Long, Jr., and the successful opponent, John J. McKeithen, carried the backing of Blanche Beulah Revere Long (1902-1998), Earl Long's politically influential widow. Goldwater was an easy winner in Louisiana and polled large majorities in the northern half of the state prior to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which brought forth the registration of large numbers of African Americans. Goldwater provided a boost to Walker but insufficient help to defeat a Long candidate.[11]​ Speedy Long prevailed in the House contest, 33,250 votes (54.5 percent) to Walker's 27,735 (45.5 percent). Walker carried only Rapides Parish but polled at least 40 percent in Sabine, Natchitoches, Grant, LaSalle, and Winn parishes.[12]

Walker never again sought office and was not visibly involved thereafter in politics.

Death

After more than three decades of retirement, Walker died at St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria at the age of eighty-four. His services were held on February 9, 1999, at Edmond's Funeral Home Chapel in Winnfield.[13] Nine months after her husband's passing, Elizabeth Walker died in Winn Parish Medical Center. Her services were held in the First United Methodist Church in Winnfield. Pastor Barry Hoekstra (1956-2014), later of First United Methodist in Alexandria and St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Shreveport,[14] officiated at the services for both William and Elizabeth Walker. There are three Walkere children, Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Walker (born August 30, 1948), then of Boston, Massachusetts, William T. "Will" Walker (born on March 12, 1950, and adopted in Linz, Austria) and wife Shirley, then of Tallahassee, Florida, and Stewart Abel Walker (born September 22, 1951), then of New York City, and two grandchildren, the offspring of Will Walker. William and Mary Elizabeth Walker, who died in the same year, are interred at the family plot at Transport Cemetery in Dodson in Winn Parish.[15]

A previous William S. Walker

Another William S. Walker served in the Confederate Army and died from wounds received in 1864 at the Battle of Mansfield in DeSoto Parish. Like the 20th-century Walker, the 19th-century William S. Walker was a lieutenant colonel. He was listed in the first Winn Parish census in 1860 as having been an Alabama native and twenty-eight years of age. He became only the second sheriff of Winn Parish, leaving the position to join the Confederate Army . It is believed that this Walker, who was married to the former Rosanna McCreight, was buried at Mansfield Cemetery and that his remains were later exhumed and reburied in a family plot near Jonesboro in Jackson Parish. The Winnfield chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy is named after the first William S. Walker. There were many Walkers in the area over both centuries and no indication that the World War II William Stewart Walker was a descendant of the Confederate William S. Walker.[16]

References

  1. George T. Walker. The Monroe News-Star. Retrieved on July 6, 2011.
  2. Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Stovall, Transport Cemetery records, Dodson, Louisiana. Transportcemetery. Retrieved on July 19, 2009.
  3. Obituary of Morgan W. Walker, Sr., Winn Parish Enterprise News, Winnfield, Louisiana, February 23, 1983.
  4. Perry Kees Abel. Ancestry.com. Retrieved on March 26, 2019.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Kenneth L. Dixon, "Major William S. Walker Leads Yanks From Nazis Lines In Daring Exploit; Beat Off Numerous Attacks In 6 Days: Winnfield Officer Employs Cage Strategy To Bring Men To Safety", Winnfield News-American', December 29, 1944.
  6. "'Task Force Hogan' Back from New Armored Raid Deep into Germany", New Orleans Times-Picayune, January 9, 1945.
  7. Statement of Ellen Walker Stephenson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a niece of William S. Walker, September 2008.
  8. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election returns, Louisiana State Senate, March 3, 1964.
  9. The Political Graveyard. Retrieved on July 20, 2009.
  10. "Barry Cops GOP Banner for Conservatives", Shreveport Journal, Shreveport, Louisiana, July 16, 1964, p. 1.
  11. Bill Dodd, Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics, Baton Rouge: Claitor's Publishing, 1991.
  12. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, U.S. Congress, November 3, 1964.
  13. Obituaries from the Monroe News Star. bayou.com. Retrieved on July 18, 2009.
  14. Barry Hoekstra. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on September 28, 2014.
  15. Mary Elizabeth Walker obituary. files.usgwarchives.net. Retrieved on July 19, 2009.
  16. Lt. Col William Walker, C.S.A.. penandsaber.com. Retrieved on July 20, 2009.

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