The First African-American Appointed to the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Houston
“I hold our men and women who have used their lives to better our country in the highest regard and take great pride in commemorating the extraordinary life of Carl Walker Jr.” – 18th Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee
On July 26, 2002, on the floor of the United States House of Representatives , the Hon Sheila Jackson Lee stood on that day and recorded in the U.S. Congressional Record one of the greatest historical tributes to the first African-American appointed to the U.S Attorney’s Offices in Houston.
According to Jackson-Lee, Carl Walker Jr. was a warrior and called on America to celebrate and remember his life, his service and his contributions in the struggle for justice, and how he made his mark on Texas history and American history.
He is believed to be the first black to hold such a position in a Southern state in the 20th century.
Some of her words describing Walker included his standing perseverance in the face of great odds and his eloquence, fearless spirit and desire to strive for excellence, justice and fairness.
It all began on May 13, 1924 when Carl Walker Jr., was born in Marlin, Falls County Texas. He attended and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1942. Following graduation, he was drafted to serve in the US Army Air force in 1943 during World War II. He was honorably discharged March 16, 1946 at the rank of Sergeant.
In September of 1946, and used his G.I Bill to enroll at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1950. He followed that up with a Masters in Economics in 1952, but the pinnacle academic achievement came when he entered and a Doctor of Juris Prudence in 1955 from Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University.
Service and Achievements
The degree led him to blaze the trail and knock down doors for those who followed, Jackson-Lee said in the speech.
He was appointed as the State Judge of the 185th Criminal District Court from 1987 until 1994. Throughout his career he was known as a tireless civic leader within the community and an even-handed jurist amongst his peers.
Walker’s law degree allowed him to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney appointed by Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
Marking yet another first, Walker was the first African-Americans U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.
Despite a busy career, Judge Walker was involved as a member of civic and religious organizations in Houston.
He held positions in the Civic League, El-Dorado Social Club, and the South Central YMCA Board of Managers.
Walker served as President of the Harris County Council of Organizations, The Houston Chapter of the U.S.O., the Texas Southern University Alumni and Ex-Student Associations, and the Houston Business and Professional Men’s Club and served on the board of directors for the American Red Cross.
His professional contributions were also groundbreaking including affiliations with the United States Supreme Court, the Houston Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation, the United States Tax Court, Federal bar Association, Fifth Circuit of Appeals, and the Texas Judicial Association.
Lasting Historical Tribute
His life and service deserved special acknowledgment at his passing, Jackson Lee recorded. “It is because of Carl Walker’s good works that not only the Congressional District, but all of Houston and America could have an improved quality of life. He was a tremendous moral force… we look to his examples in the struggle for justice and integrity in our country today
Carl Walker Jr. died on July 12, 2002 at the age of 78.
Source: 18th District Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee; U.S. Congressional Record, July 29, 2002, page 15272; and Texas Archival Resource Online.
By: Darwin Campbell