Ex Muscogee County School Board chairman dies

James Walker
James Walker Muscogee County School District

A former chairman of the Muscogee County School Board has died.

James Walker, who served on the board for 18 years and as chairman from 2007-08, died Friday morning, said board secretary Karen Jones. He was 86.

The cause of death wasn’t available. He was residing in Atlanta when he died, Jones said.

The funeral will be Wednesday at noon in Grady Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church, 3000 12th Ave., Columbus, according to Progressive Funeral Home. Immediately following the funeral, the burial will be at Fort Mitchell National Cemetery.

Walker was among the first representatives elected to the nine-member board in 1993, when it became an elected governing body instead of being appointed by a grand jury. He served District 3 through 2012, when Athavia “A.J.” Senior defeated him. In 2001, he became a district representative for the Georgia School Boards Association and chaired the personnel committee.

“He was such a gentleman and such a team player,” Jones said. “His heart was in this school district. It really was — for the students, teachers and employees.”

Walker was the board’s vice chairman during the 13 years (1994 through 2006) Mary Sue Polleys was the chairwoman. She praised his “wise counsel.”

“I had heard he was in bad health, but I’m very sorry to hear this sad news,” Polleys said. “James Walker was always a dependable school board member who could be counted on to do the right thing for the students of this community. . . . He was always a voice of reason and a steady, calm presence.”

Walker, a retired U.S. Army command sergeant major and financial adviser, was especially a strong advocate for military families, Polleys said.

“When we needed to send somebody to Washington, D.C., for something that impacted military families,” she said, “he was always ready to do that.”

Walker grew up in Columbus and graduated from Spencer High School. He is predeceased by his wife, Frances. He was a father and a grandfather.

District 1 representative Pat Hugley Green, a former chairwoman of the board, told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email, “Mr. Walker was quiet and thoughtful yet an effective leader that his family can feel proud. He earned the respect of colleagues and served as the first African-American chair of the elected board. He equally earned the respect of District 3 voters as he served two decades on behalf of students and families. Mr. Walker served many years as a GSBA director because he earned the respect of school board members around the State. He will be missed, and I offer my sincerest condolences to his family.”

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.