Biographical / Historical
Morton Walker, a native of Hartford, Kentucky, provided substantive leadership to the city of Louisville and to the University of Louisville during three decades of change from 1935 through 1964. His work as chairman of the Louisville Board of Education spanned three terms during the controversial decisions on coeducation of duPont Manual and Male High Schools and school desegregation of the Louisville school system in the 1950s. At the University of Louisville, he served as associate professor and professor of English and Speech at Speed Scientific School as well as Dean of Men of the University from 1947 through 1952 when he was appointed Assistant to the President in charge of alumni and student relations. In July 1974, Walker retired and was named Professor Emeritus in the Speed Scientific School (now the J.B. Speed School of Engineering).
Walker was born June 18, 1909, in Hartford, Kentucky, and educated at the University of Kentucky, receiving his A.B. in 1931 and his M. A. degree in 1933. His undergraduate work was in English and Journalism while his graduate concentration was English and Speech. While in Lexington, Walker received a teaching fellowship for graduate studies. He was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Delta Kappa, Kappa Delta Pi, Sigma Delta Chi and Pi Delta Epsilon, all scholastic and professional societies; Omicron Delta Kappa, a men's leadership fraternity; and Phi Kappa Tau, a social fraternity. Walker maintained a keen interest in his honorary and social society affiliations through his career. He continued his education during the summers of 1933, 1934, 1936 and 1939, at the University of California.
Upon graduation from the University of Kentucky, Walker began a career teaching English, Speech and providing faculty assistance to various journalism projects. Between 1933 and 1946 he taught at the Jenkins High School (Jenkins, Kentucky), Southern Junior High School (Louisville), duPont Manual High School (Louisville), and Indiana University Extension (New Albany, Indiana). During his period Walker also was sports announcer of WGRC. He also taught speech courses for the management group of Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, Inc. of Louisville. Quite active in educational professional organizations, Walker served as president of the Louisville Education Association and the Kentucky Council of Teachers of English.
Walker joined the University of Louisville faculty as an assistant professor of English with the Speed Scientific School in September 1946 and in September 1947 became acting Dean of Men, at a time when availability of student housing was a critical issue. He became permanent Dean of Men in the spring of 1948. Walker was then appointed Assistant to the President (Dr. Philip Davidson) for alumni and student relations and served in that position until 1954 when he wished to return to full time teaching of English, Speech, and Journalism.
Walker filed as a candidate for the Louisville Board of Education in September 1948 and was elected in November to the first of three terms. Receiving strong backing from the AFL-Federation of Teachers, the Louisville Education Association, and the Louisville Classroom Teachers Association, Walker ran on a progressive platform favoring coeducation in Louisville schools and a higher tax rate to secure new schools. The firestorm of school desegregation lay just ahead in 1956-1957.
During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Walker showcased as a speaker at numerous civic luncheons and dinners and school commencements. He served as president of the Louisville Lions Club and was active in brotherhood organizations such as the Commission on Human Rights and the National Conference of Christian and Jews. For his local church, Fourth Avenue Baptist, Walker served on various leadership and fund-raising committees. He also served as president of the Louisville Council of Churches and as mission chairman for the Greater Louisville Evangelistic Mission. He was appointed to the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Race Relations, the Governor's Commission on Adult Education, and Louisville's Rent Advisory Board.
Walker's decade of community outreach bolstered his credibility when as president of the Louisville Board of Education he had to provide coordination and leadership during the turbulent years leading up to school desegregation in 1957. Violence was deterred by providing voluntary requests for transfers of children from mixed schools. Although 73.6 percent of students were in integrated schools in November 1956, requests for transfer had been made by 45 percent of Negro parents whose children were assigned to predominantly white schools and 85 percent of white parents whose children had been assigned to predominantly black schools. Later that month the Louisville Education Association voted to accept Negro teachers as members of the organization.
President of the Board of Education until 1964, Walker continued to support teacher salary raises, less administration for classroom teachers, and improved preparation at the high school level for college. In the 1960s, Walker continued to give commencement addresses, worked in church councils and served on activities of the Louisville Arts Council.
In July 1, 1974, Walker retired from the Speed Scientific School and was promoted to Professor Emeritus.