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Ricky T. Walker, Sr., 1949-2011: Ex-UT official's life dedicated to social justice

Ricky T. Walker, Sr., a former senior director of affirmative action and assistant to the president at the University of Toledo who worked for social justice on and off the job, died Oct. 30 in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue, of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 62.

He was appointed in September, 1994, to his positions at UT, where he remained until June, 2007.

"He served as a conscience for the university," said his daughter, Whitney Walker, a UT academic adviser. "He led by example, and people respected him."

He made sure UT followed the law in hiring practices, and he encouraged the university to seek students, staff, and faculty from diverse ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds.

"He grew up in the segregated South, and so he experienced firsthand some of those issues of inequity and injustice," his daughter said. "He made it his life's mission to right those. That's what drove him."

He came to UT from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, where he was executive assistant to the president and director of equal opportunity programs. Earlier, he was on the sociology faculty at the University of South Carolina at Spartanburg before he became an affirmative action officer there.

He was Ohio coordinator of the American Association for Affirmative Action and was a founder of its annual state conference. He was on the conference planning committee for a region of the national organization that included Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

"Ricky was very highly regarded," said Marshall Rose, who retired in December, 2010, as director of the office of equity and diversity at Bowling Green State University.

"I'm still receiving emails from people around the country who knew him, offering condolences," Mr. Rose said. "People listened to Ricky. He always made comments that were sound and thoughtful, and people respected his commitment."

Mr. Walker was on the board of the Toledo Fair Housing Center and was chairman for years of its finance committee. He was good with numbers, and as a volunteer, he took responsibility.

"Ricky could be counted on, and he had influence with others," Mr. Rose, board president and chairman, said.

Mr. Walker also had been scholarship committee chairman of 50 Men and Women Inc., which awards scholarships to minority students.

He was born Oct. 21, 1949, in Manning, S.C., to Milton and Willian Walker. He was valedictorian of his high school class in Manning. He had a bachelor's degree from Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa., and a master's degree from Cornell University. He had been a captain in the Army Reserve.

He grew up playing baseball, and he was a fan of the New York Yankees, which while in Toledo he didn't admit to just anyone, his daughter said. He was a regular at Mud Hens games and in August, he and his daughter went to a Tigers game in Detroit.

"He wanted to be in that atmosphere," she said.

He tinkered with computers and played computer games and read fiction and history.

"He was a genuine person. He was steadfast," his daughter said. "He was personable, but at the same time, he had a quiet way about him -- introspective, I guess you'd say.

"He was so wise. He was a person I would go to for information about anything, from taxes to baseball teams. … He was a role model."

Mr. Walker was formerly married to Judith Jones.

Surviving are his son, Ricky Walker, Jr., daughter, Whitney Walker, mother, Willian Walker, and brother, Roderick Walker.

Memorial services will be at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, Manning, S.C. Toledo arrangements were by Newcomer Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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