The famous photo of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in an Alabama jail cell was made possible by his chief strategist and SCLC Executive Director, the Rev. Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker. Rev. Walker passed this Tuesday, leaving behind a long career of civil rights organizing and activism from the streets to the pulpit.
Walker, who was born in Massachusetts, was working as a pastor in Virginia when he first involved himself in civil rights. In the late ’50’s, Walker organized peaceful protests of school segregation in the state. His work caught the attention of King, who appointed him as the first executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
With the high-profile position, Walker moved about activist circles and assisted King with day-to-day activities. Among his many contributions, King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” letter was compiled with the help of Walker. Walker also sneaked a camera into the jail taped to his leg to snap the well-known photo.
Appointed to lead the Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem, Walker was installed by Rev. King and was the only New York pastor to have that honor. Just over a week later, Rev. King was assassinated. The fire in Walker’s belly did not abate with King’s untimely death, and he used the platform to rally against domestic and global injustice. His work inspired the likes of Rev. Al Sharpton, among others.
The family announced that Walker passed in an assisted living community in Virginia, where his civil rights career began.
According to reports, Rev. Walker was around 88 years of age.
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