William Walker (muralist)

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William Walker
Born1927 (1927)
Died(2011-09-12)September 12, 2011
Chicago, Illinois
EducationColumbus Gallery of Art
Known forPainting

William Walker is a notable muralist in Chicago. He was one of the founders of the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) and one of the leaders in the project involving the Wall of Respect. He was also one of the critical founders of the mural movements in Chicago during the 1960s.


William Walker was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1927. Although born in the South, he grew up in Chicago. After serving in World War II and in the Korean War, he studied fine arts at the Columbus Gallery of Art in Columbus, Ohio (now Columbus College of Art and Design), and became the first African-American man to win the 47th annual group exhibition award.[1]

After graduating, he went to Memphis where he painted his first murals. A year later in 1955, Walker returned to Chicago and worked as a decorative painter and a postal worker. In 1967, he participated in a project related to the Organization for Black American Culture. This project was a community mural that would honor African American heroes and was named "The Wall of Respect". The Wall of Respect started a nationwide movement of "people's art". From there, Walker cofounded the Chicago Mural Group (now known as the Chicago Public Art Group) with John Pitman Weber and Eugene Eda, while continuing to paint murals in Chicago. Walker painted murals to make the community more aware of the racial strife going on in America at that time and to spur individuals to get more involved in solving racial problems.

William Walker was found dead of natural causes in his apartment in Chicago on September 12, 2011.

Selected works[edit]

Title Date Location Status
Wall of Respect 1967 43rd Street and Langley Avenue, Chicago Destroyed by fire, 1971
Wall of Dignity 1968 Mack Avenue and Lillibridge, Detroit
Harriet Tubman Memorial Wall 1968 Mack Avenue and Lillibridge, Detroit
Wall of Truth 1969 43rd Street and Langley Avenue, Chicago Destroyed by fire, 1971
Peace and Salvation: The Wall of Understanding 1970 872 N. Orleans, Chicago Destroyed, 1991[2]
All of Mankind 1971-73 617 W. Evergreen Ave, Chicago Whitewashed 2015
History of the Packing House Worker 1975 4859 South Wabash, Chicago Restored, 1998
Wall of Daydreaming and Man's Inhumanity to Man 1975 47th Street and Calumet Avenue, Chicago Restored, 2003[3]
Childhood is Without Prejudice 1977 56th Street and Stony Island Avenue, Chicago Restored, 1993 and 2009
Justice Speaks: Delbert Tibbs/New Trial or Freedom 1977 57th Street and Lake Park, Chicago Destroyed in Metra renovation, 2001/2[4]
St. Martin Luther King 1977 49th Street and Martin Luther King Drive, Chicago Destroyed after being defaced[1]
Reaching Children/Touching People 1980 975 E. 132nd Street, Chicago[5]
You Are as Good as Anyone 1980
Reaganomics 1982
Wall of Community Respect 1983
Peace, Peace 1984
Tribute to Harold Washington 47th and Champlain


  • "Images of Conscience: The Art of Bill Walker", Chicago State University, 1984
  • "Bill Walker: Urban Griot", Hyde Park Art Center, 2017–18

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 1986: City Brightener Award, Bright New City[6]
  • 1998: Hall of Honor, Illinois Labor History Society[7]

Further reading[edit]

  • Dunitz, Robin J., and James Prigoff. Walls of Heritage, Walls of Pride: African American Murals. Rohnert: Pomegranate Communications, 2000.
  • Gray, Mary Lackritz. A Guide to Chicago's Murals. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2001.
  • Gude, Olivia. Urban Art Chicago: A Guide to Community Murals, Mosaics, and Sculptures. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2000.
  • Huebner, Jeff W. Walls of Prophecy & Protest: William Walker and the Roots of a Revolutionary Public Art Movement. Northwestern University Press, 2019.


  1. ^ a b c Huebner, Jeff (1997-08-28). "Man Behind the Wall". Chicago Reader.
  2. ^ Huebner, Jeff (2001-09-06). "Back to the Walls: Public art advocates rally to save the last remnants of the famous "Mural Revolution."". Chicago Reader.
  3. ^ Ehmke, Layton and Justine Jablonska (2009-12-09). "A Chicago mural tells a story of a recent past, but will the future accept it?". Medill Reports - Chicago.
  4. ^ "The CPAG Watch List". Chicago Reader. 2001-09-06.
  5. ^ "City hires 3 artists in new building plan". Chicago Tribune. 1979-06-28. p. W5.
  6. ^ Cummings, Cecilia (1986-03-27). "20 win awards for brightening life in Chicago". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 66.
  7. ^ "1998 Hall of Honor".

External links[edit]