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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

WALKER, WILLIAM OTIS

WALKER, WILLIAM OTIS

WALKER, WILLIAM OTIS (19 Sept. 1896-29 Oct. 1981), black Republican publisher, was born in Selma, Ala., son of Alex and Annie Lee (Jones) Walker. He worked for the Pittsburgh Urban League after studying at Wilberforce University and Oberlin Business College, and entered journalism first reporting for the Pittsburgh Courier, then as city editor of the Norfolk Journal & Guide, cofounding the Washington (D.C.) Tribune in 1921. Walker came to Cleveland in 1932 to manage the CALL & POST, within a few years acquiring majority ownership. Walker helped found the FUTURE OUTLOOK LEAGUE, but, a loyal Republican, was conservative in politics. He was councilman from 1940-47; and as Ohio's director of industrial relations from 1963-71, was the first black to hold a cabinet-level position in state government. In his Call & Post column, Walker criticized relief expenditures, calling instead for policies creating more private sector jobs.

Despite his conservatism, Walker took radical stands when he thought blacks would benefit. He supported Democrat Carl Stokes for mayor in 1967, and when several black councilmen were accused of taking kickbacks, he organized a fund for their defense. In the 1960s, he boycotted McDonald's Restaurant, forcing it to grant franchises to blacks. He helped organize black self-help groups such as Operation Alert and the Surrogates.

Walker married Theresa Brooks on 2 July 1919; they divorced in 1955. Walker was survived by his second wife, Naomi (Russell). He had no children from either marriage. Walker died of a heart attack in the Call & Post Bldg. and was buried in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY. He was elected posthumously to the Gallery of Distinguished Newspaper Publishers at Howard University.