Ron Walters, Community's "Tallest Tree," Dead at 72
By Talibah Chikwendu
September 11, 2010
For more than four decades, Ronald Walters, PhD. served
the African-American community, the United States and
the world as a consultant, teacher, writer, mentor and
friend. His service came to a close Sept. 10, when he
lost a battle with cancer at Suburban Hospital in
Bethesda, Md. He was 72 years old.
Walters was born in Wichita, Kan. in 1938. He earned a
bachelor's degree with honors from Fisk University and
earned a masters degree in African studies and a
doctorate in International Studies from American
University. Walters was a professor since the early
1970s, teaching at numerous institutions including at
Georgetown, Syracuse, Brandeis and Howard universities
and the University of Maryland. He was chairman of the
Howard University Department of Political Science and
chairman of Afro-American Studies at Brandeis. He also
served as a visiting professor at Princeton University
and was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the
Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Walters' longtime friend the Rev. Jesse Jackson said
Howard University had recently convinced Walters to
come out of retirement and return to teaching, and that
Walters was looking forward to the opportunity.
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) met Walters while a
student at Howard. "As a teacher, he always found time
for his students," Cummings told the AFRO. "When he was
at Howard, we would fight to get in his classes. He was
always telling us to reach high, to be a part of the
Walters also made his mark as a dedicated scholar,
authoring and co-authoring more than 10 books and
hundreds of academic articles and commentaries. He was
awarded the Ralph Bunch Prize for his book Black
Presidential Politics in America. He was also a
political consultant, serving as policy adviser to
former congressmen William Gray and Charles Diggs. He
worked with a number of organizations and serving as
director of public policy for the Rev. Jesse Jackson's
Jackson, who said he visited Walters several times in
the hospital over the last few weeks, called Walters a
"scholar activist" and "a genius," as well as friend
"He's [Walters] the tallest tree in the forest of
activists, political scientists," Jackson said in an
interview with the AFRO. "I miss him so much already."
Walters was always ready to assist, whether to lend his
thoughts or his actions to a just endeavor. He traveled
around the world, and was actively involved in the
movement to end apartheid and the efforts to return
Jean-Bertrand Aristide to office in Haiti, according to
Jackson. And while his hard work gave him national
recognition and standing, an organization did not have
to be big to get his assistance.
"Ron Walters was a brilliant, dedicated, consistent and
unapologetic warrior for African-Americans," said
syndicated columnist George E. Curry. "While he is best
known for teaching at Howard and the University of
Maryland, advising Jesse Jackson and the Congressional
Black Caucus, he spent many hours sharing his expertise
with small, largely unknown community groups. Black
America has lost a scholar whose life exemplified
"He was definitely one of the greatest thinkers we
have," said Cummings.
He touched many people, personally and professionally.
"His powerful intellect, integrity and race
consciousness will be deeply missed," said Ramona
Edelin, a longtime friend and leading Black scholar .
"This loss is very personal for so many people he has
helped throughout the years."
Cummings considers himself one of those people. "He was
like a part of my family," said Cummings. "I'm going to
miss him tremendously."
"He encouraged me to run for Congress," Cummings said.
"He [Walters] said, `Not only will you win, you must
win.' Whenever I had difficult political questions, I
could always pick up the phone and call Ron. He was a
sort of quiet man, but had strong, well thought-out
opinions and he could always back them up."
It's that quality that will be missed at the AFRO as
well. Along with the many commentaries published in its
pages in which Walters addressed important issues, he
was a valued source for a variety of stories.
"It was always a pleasure to speak with Dr. Walters,
who remained remarkably humble and accessible despite
his stature," said AFRO Washington Bureau Chief Zenitha
Prince. "Our interviews invariably turned into
conversations in which he would demonstrate an erudite
knowledge of the issues affecting the African-American
community and also a deep commitment to Black progress.
He will be missed."
From the BlackCommentator:
We are extremely saddened to reort the death of Dr. Ron
Walters, PhD. Brother Ron was a member of the Editorial
Board of BlackCommentator.com and a BC columnist. He
was a noted educator and poliical analyst. The title of his
olumn was "African American Leadership" a subject he
studied, wrote about and taught. The next issue of Black
Commentator will present more toughts about this warrior
for social justice, economic juystice and peace.
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