ENON — If he had lived to see it, the daughter of a local Civil Rights Movement legend says she thinks her father would love to see his name on a bookcase.
“My father was a Lion the Lion,” said Patrice Walker Powell. “He was proudly a man of the people and a man of God.”
Powell and other family members of Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker joined local leaders Friday morning in a ceremony naming the future Enon Library branch in his memory. A bond referendum will be voted on next month in Chesterfield County that would fund the construction of a new, larger facility to replace the current building on Enon Church Road.
Powell called the appointment a “tribute” to Walker, a former director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, former president of the NAACP of Petersburg and close adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is probably best known in Petersburg for leading a 1960 sit-in by black residents of Petersburg to fight segregation of the Old Petersburg Public Library, a move that closed the library for four days and set off a series of events that led to the eventual desegregation of establishment later that year.
“My dad loved people,” Powell said, “and he really wanted to have equity for everyone. So a library is one of the best places to make that available.”
Speakers at Friday’s dedication ceremony praised Walker for his service both in the pulpit and in the field during the civil rights movement.
“When I talk to people, I’m talking about walking in the footsteps of giants,” said William McGee, president of the Central Virginia SCLC and friend of the family. “Wyatt Tee Walker was one of those giants, and I had the privilege of walking in his footsteps and hearing him.”
McGee said that instead of sharing the national spotlight with King, Walker preferred to stay in the background and carry out the mission that King and others stood for.
Cynthia Hudson, a member of the Virginia NAACP and chair of the Commission to Examine Racial Inequality in Virginia Law, called Walker “a true titan of the civil rights movement, on whose shoulders, among others, I and many of us have stood”. She also praised Walker for his efforts to increase awareness of black history in school curricula.
“There are many who would say we’re here…and I’m among them…nearly 60 years later that goal has yet to be fully achieved,” Hudson said. “But this honor we recognize today is a bold and important step towards recognizing and sustaining attention to this need.”
Chesterfield Supervisory Board chairman Chris Winslow called Walker “an icon of humanity”. He cited a 1982 book written by Walker called “Somebody’s Calling My Name”.
“Today we call Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker’s name in gratitude and imperpetuity, as we dedicate and name this future library after a man whose life and work have honored all mankind. “Winslow said.
The ceremony ended with the unveiling of a sign at the front door of the current library commemorating Walker’s accomplishments. Officials said this panel will eventually be moved to the yet-undecided site of Enon’s new library.
Walker died in 2018 at the age of 89.
Bill Atkinson (he/him/her) is an award-winning journalist covering breaking news, government and politics. Reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BAtkinson_PI.