Prominent professor on race and ethnicity served as mentor to many in NAACP, including President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous
The NAACP family is saddened by the passing of Dr. Ron Walters, prominent professor, unwavering civil rights activist and political scholar in race and ethnicity. Dr. Walters passed on September 10 at the age of 72.
Born on July 20, 1938 in Wichita, Kansas, Walters was internationally renowned as a political scholar and expert in black politics. In addition to his role as a professor in government and politics at the University of Maryland, Dr. Walters served as director of the African American Leadership Institute and Scholar Practitioner Program and Distinguished Leadership Scholar at the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership.
He served as a mentor and friend of the NAACP family, and was seen by many within the organization as one of the world’s greatest intellects and a civil rights pioneer.
“I first met Ron when I was 20 and had just been suspended from college for leading campus protests,” said NAACP President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “He sat me down and explained how to build real power for people who others thought permanently powerless. Those lessons have guided my life’s work for nearly 20 years. He was a great teacher and a great human being.”
A graduate of Fisk University, Dr. Walters earned his graduate degrees from American University. He taught at Georgetown University, Syracuse University and the University of Maryland, and served as department chair at Brandeis and Howard Universities. He published more than 100 academic articles and authored several award-winning books, including Black Presidential Politics in America and White Nationalism, Black Interests: Conservative Public Policy and the Black Community.
As a member of the NAACP Youth Council in Wichita, Dr. Walters participated in the first successful student sit-in in 1958, desegregating Docukum Drug Store lunch counter in Wichita and the Rexall chain drugs throughout the state of Kansas. Just last month, Dr. Walters submitted an entry to the NAACP’s “Stories of the Dream”, the first ever social networking history of the Civil Rights Movement, where he recounted his memories of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech at the March on Washington.
Said Walters of what was later known as the “I Have a Dream” speech:
Finally, Dr. King came out. I had never seen him and several of us remarked at how short he was. But when he opened up his mouth to speak, the power of his delivery took away his physical size and created another kind of stature. Many years after that I was delighted to know that I had had the benefit of listening to some of the ideas that would later become immortal before they were delivered…but we had no idea that the magic of Dr. King’s configuration of some of the ideas, unwritten and unrehearsed at the time, would move a nation and a world.
“Dr. Walters played an irreplaceable role in guiding generations of black political scientists and political leaders,” continued Jealous. “He will be sorely missed.”
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