Dave Walker, 1945-2015, !Presente!
Walker was best known for his role as a citizen advocate at meetings of the Atlanta City Council and its seven Committees, where he would make public comment that was incisive, unique, and critical of those in power.
He typically wore hospital scrubs because he saw himself as somewhat of a doctor of the political process, and he found them to be comfortable, he told Creative Loafing Atlanta magazine in a 2009 interview.
Although Walker greatly reduced his level of participation over the last five years, he was still one of the five so-called “gadflies,” referenced in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper article in 2010: Walker; senior advocate Ben Howard; Ron Shakir; Brother Anthony Muhammad; and APN’s News Editor, the present writer.
“The AJC called us Gadflies. Dave Walker called us Dave Walker Wanna-be’s. The AJC one I’ll tolerate, but the one from Dave Walker, I’ll cherish,” Ben Howard, 82, told APN.
Walker ran for Atlanta City Council President in 2009, receiving 5,759 votes, or 9.07 percent of the vote citywide, forcing now-Council President Ceasar Mitchell and then Councilwoman Clair Muller (District 8) into a Run-off Election. Walker liked to note that he received more votes in that race than some of the district Councilmembers.
“David Walker was a fierce advocate for military veterans and their right to earn a living as vendors in our city. He was also as fierce in his demand that elected leaders serve the public with integrity and accountability. My prayers are with his family during this time,” Council President Ceasar Mitchell said in a statement prepared for APN.
“I’ve known Dave Walker since the early 90’s. I was honored to be the producer of his radio show on WIGO AM. Later, I came to know him as a constant fixture at City Hall,” Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) told APN.
“He would grace the Council with praise and prosecution for what we did and did not do. Outside of public comments, I had the pleasure to share several conversations with him regarding city issues and topics of the day. I recently had a chance to tell him I missed him at City Hall,” Moore said.
“I am saddened by his transition; however, I will always remember what he told me often — ‘I love you.’ Well, Dave, ‘I love you too,’ and I thank God for having known you,” Moore said.
“He was the inconvenient conscience of the City Council, always willing to speak truth to power. Sometimes with humor, sometimes with fire and brimstone. But always with direct, in your face righteous indignation. He had the absurd expectation that elected officials would do right by the people who put them in office, and he did his damndest to make sure we did. He will be sorely missed, deeply and sorely missed,” Councilman Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) said.
“Dave Walker was committed to our city and strong, ethical city government. When he came to City Hall, he was always prepared and always outspoken. I will miss his unique perspective, his pithy remarks, and his sense of fair play,” Councilwoman Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large) said.
Citizen advocate Ron Shakir said that Dave Walker had strong beliefs, which often conflicted with the beliefs of others, but that he was committed to the rights of citizens to express their beliefs.
Some of his comments were not always as progressive or as appreciated as others.
One of the things he appeared to feel strongly about was his opposition to homosexuality. He seemed to be aghast at the progress made by the LGBTQI community to obtain equal rights, sometimes offering homophobic remarks to express his beliefs.
For example, in 2011, he made comments critical of former State Rep. Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta), when Taylor came out of the closet as homosexual.
Also, after the Atlanta Eagle Raid of 2009, Walker frequently argued with APN’s Editor that he did not agree that the victims had a right to claim that their U.S. constitutional rights had been violated by the Atlanta Police Department because, in his opinion, the male victims should not have been partying in their underwear at a nightclub in the first place.
His religious beliefs sometimes informed his comments in other ways. On at least one occasion, he made a public comment that recent events in Israel were the signs of what he believed was the pending end of times.
But these comments were not representative of the volume of those he made over a period of two decades at Atlanta City Hall.
“Dave Walker was a staple at City Hall since the day I moved to Atlanta. Sometimes he talked loud and boisterous, but if you listened to what he said, he was brilliant, he was the best damn citizen advocate Atlanta was likely to ever see,” advocate Dwanda Farmer said.
“You couldn’t come down to City Hall without seeing Dave Walker and they never gave him a check to do it,” Farmer said.
“And he was not scared, that’s what you had to like about him, he wasn’t afraid of anyone,” Farmer said.
“I really miss him a lot coming down here. He allowed us to see what was going on at City Hall. We didn’t have a lot of people coming downtown and speaking the truth. He’s gonna be missed for that,” activist Edith Ladipo said.
A funeral will be held for Walker on Saturday, July 11, 2015, at 1p.m., at the Gus Thornhill’s Funeral Home, 1315 Gus Thornhill, East Point, Georgia 30344.