Former Samford University professor and administrator and longtime Baptist educator and convention leader Arthur L. Walker Jr. died early Jan. 14 at his home in Birmingham, Ala. He was 78.
Walker held a unique position in Southern Baptist Convention life. He served as the executive director of two SBC agencies-the Education Commission and the Commission on the American Baptist Theological Seminary. He held both positions from 1978 until his retirement in 1993. Both entities were dissolved in the mid-1990s under the SBC's restructuring plan, "Covenant for a New Century."
Following retirement, Walker returned to his native Birmingham and taught part-time at Samford University for several years.
Funeral services will be held Jan. 17 at 11 a.m. at Brookwood Baptist Church in Birmingham , where Walker had been an active member and Sunday School teacher. Dr. Barry C. Howard, former pastor at Brookwood, will officiate. Visitation will be Jan. 16 from 4-6 p.m. at Jefferson Memorial Funeral Home in Hoover, Ala.
Survivors include his wife, Gladys, a daughter, Marcia Walker Hamby of Birmingham, and three grandchildren. Mrs. Hamby is director of counseling services at Samford.
Walker spent his adult ministry in Christian higher education. He taught for many years at his alma mater, Howard College (now Samford University) in Birmingham, and served as dean of students and later vice president for student affairs at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville , Ky. He also served numerous churches in Alabama as interim pastor and was author of Southern Baptist Trusteeship. While at the Education Commission he edited the agency's publication, The Southern Baptist Educator.
Colleagues and friends remembered Walker not only for his dedication and love for Christian higher education, but also for his integrity and for his Christian faith and witness.
Samford University President Thomas E. Corts knew Walker both as a professional colleague and as a fellow church member.
"As a preacher boy at Samford years ago, the potential of Christian higher education made a deep impression upon him - an impression deepened by his decades of service as a professor and administrator, and then as chief advocate for Baptist colleges and universities. He dedicated his life to that ministry," Corts said in remembering Walker .
"He brought a warm pastoral approach to all he did. His integrity and conviction earned great respect among colleagues privileged to work with him."
"(Dr. Walker) balanced well his multiple staff roles as agency head, editor, writer, teacher, counselor and trusted friend," said Tim Fields, who worked with Walker at the Education Commission.
"Dr. Walker was a man of uncompromising integrity, unshakeable faith, and impeccable Christian witness," said Fields, director of communications for the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools, which at one time was under the umbrella of the Education Commission. "His churchmanship, captivating preaching, deep concern for the welfare of others, and dedication to excellence in Christian higher education are a testimony to his deep and abiding faith in Christ and to the mission and ministry of Southern Baptists," Fields added.
Juanita Wilkinson, who also worked with Walker at the Education Commission, recalled she "was impressed with the manner in which he encouraged each employee to reach the potential possible in personal effort and in the work assignments on hand. He was always fair in dealing with any questions that might arise. "He was a gentleman and exemplified a complete commitment to the leadership of the Lord in daily living," she added.
James Taylor, president of the University of the Cumberlands (formerly Cumberland College ) in Williamsburg, Ky., worked closely with Walker during his tenure as executive director of the Education Commission.
"Dr. Walker had a profound, significant, enduring impact not only on higher
education throughout the world, but also specifically on our Southern
Baptist-affiliated institutions of higher education. He will not be soon forgotten, but will be long remembered for his enduring impact on the lives of many," Taylor observed.
Another long-time colleague, Bob Agee, former president of Oklahoma Baptist University , Shawnee , and currently executive director of the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools, also reflected on Walker 's leadership.
"He approached his work with a deep and genuine devotion to the cause of Christian higher education and with a heart to see Southern Baptists leading the way in quality education," said Agee, who now resides in Jackson , Tenn.
"His marvelous background as an educator and his commitment to historic Baptist theology and polity equipped him so well for the task. He was always available to help schools whenever they needed him, and he was an excellent resource for schools and state conventions."
The Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools awarded Walker its highest honor, the Charles D Johnson Outstanding Educator Award prior to his retirement.
Walker also had the respect of his SBC peers.
"Arthur Walker was a senior leader in SBC life when I came to the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) in 1983," said former president Lloyd Elder, founding director of the Moench Center at Belmont University in Nashville .
"He graciously received me and became a valued co-worker in our agency assignments. I recognized in him thoughtfulness, scholarship, integrity and a profound faith," Elder recalled.
The family has requested that memorials be given to the Gregory Arthur Walker Scholarship, Samford University, 800 Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, AL 35229.
Includes reporting from Lonnie Wilkey, editor, Baptist and Reflector, and Philip Poole, Samford University .