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Walls Family Papers

Identifier: ULRAR042-UA

The Walls Family papers document Murray Atkins Walls' career as a leader in the struggle for integrated facilities, open housing and civil rights in Louisville, Kentucky from the mid-1930's through the 1970's. To a lesser degree it documents the life and career of her husband, Dr. John H. Walls, a Black physician who practiced in Louisville for over 50 years, who was also very active in the cause of civil rights. The papers also include a small series on the Atkins family and Mrs. Walls' father Dr. Calvin R. Atkins, a prominent physician in Indianapolis during the period 1898 to 1923.

The material includes newspaper clippings, civic and personal correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, texts of speeches, newsletters, programs, awards and citations, all of which were collected and saved by Murray Walls throughout the years. The materials are arranged by subjects in a manner similar to Mrs. Walls' original arrangement.

The best documented aspect of Murray Walls' career is her long-time leadership of the Louisville Council of Girl Scouts (1940-1979) which she helped to achieve integration in 1954. Other activities of hers are sketchily outlined, such as her teaching career at Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis (1927-1936) her employment as Tenant Supervisor for Louisville Municipal Housing Commission (1937-1944) her crusade to provide adaquate public housing and open housing legislation, her long fight to desegregate the Louisville Free Public Library (1941-1952) and her memberships on the Kentucky State Board of Education (1956-1963) and the Louisville-Jefferson County Human Relations Commission (1961-1970).

The collection provides a brief, incomplete picture of the life and career of Dr. John H. Walls from 1918 to 1980. Some of his activities as an executive board member of the Louisville chapter of the NAACP (1925-1971) are outlined. His early life in Mason, Tennessee, his school years at Meharry Medical College and his summers spent working as a Pullman porter (1913-1917?) while a student are discussed in a 1973 Courier-Journal article. The collection does document the highpoints of his civic and professional career, but contains little detail.

Also included in the collection are a few letters and telegrams from notables such as W.C. Handy, Langston Hughes from the 1930's and from Whitney Young, Jr. during the 1960's. Mrs. Walls also collected newspaper clippings and autographs of several prominent black entertainers, artists and civil rights leaders such as Paul Robeson, Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Roy Wilkins. She also collected some genealogical material on the Atkins family and a small amount of biographical information on her father, Dr. Calvin R. Atkins. The collection contains many photographs, mainly of the Atkins family, of Mrs. Walls' Girl Scout and public housing activities and of her and Dr. Walls' friends and associates.

The bulk of the Walls' papers cover the years 1927 to 1965 and are an enlightening source for the the history of the civil rights movement in Louisville during that time period. The history of Blacks in medicine is also touched briefly.

**Note to researchers: The University of Louisville Archives and Records also possesses a set of oral history interviews done with Murray and John Walls in 1977 which supplement and clarify much scattered information contained in the Walls' papers.


  • 1866-1979


Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has been transferred to the University of Louisville and there are no additional restrictions.


3.17 linear feet

Summary of Significant Events

Dr. John H. Walls

Born in Mason, Tennessee
Entered Meharry Medical School
Worked as Pullman porter during summer breaks
Graduated from Meharry Medical School
Worked for Sears & Roebuck in Chicago to pay off school debts
Commissioned 1st Lieutenant in Medical Reserve Corps
Established an office in Louisville, Kentucky as a general practitioner
Joined Falls City Medical Society
Elected President of Falls City Medical Society
Member of Louisville Health Council
Established "Well-Baby" Clinics in Louisville's West End
Active member of Executive Board of Louisville chapter of NAACP
Studied at Louisville General Hospital during summers
Married Murray B. Atkins
Joined surgical staff of Louisville Red Cross Hospital
Elected President of Alpha Lambda Chapter, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, hosting national convention in Louisville
Member of Governing Board of Louisville Red Cross Hospital
Retired from private practice
Worked on staff of Duvalle Health Center
Moved to Berkeley, California
Returned to Louisville
Died in Louisville, March 29


Guide to the Walls Family papers
Under Revision
Peggy Mudd
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Repository

Ekstrom Library, Lower Level Room 17
Louisville KY 40292
502 852-6752