Before a massive audience of nearly a thousand mourners. The Rev. Dr. Charles Walker, retired pastor of South Philadelphia’s 19th Street Baptist Church, was funeralized last week at Triumph Baptist Church. Rev. Walker, who had struggled with cancer for several years, was 76 years old.
Befitting the renaissance status he had achieved through his teaching, musicianship, missionary works, as well as preaching, most of the area’s major clergy leaders attended last Monday’s homegoing services for Dr. Walker.
Rev. Charles Ellis Walker was the eldest child born to Charles Ellis Duncan and Mercedes Zeila Pierre on June 28, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois. A sister, Rose Marie and a brother, Roland Alphonso were also born to this union.
ln 1944, his mother Mercedes Zeila Pierre Duncan married Rev. Charlie Henry Walker and he adopted her three children, Charles, Rose and Roland. Rev. Walker brought to this union, a daughter, Audrey Walker, by his deceased first wife. Mercedes bore four children, for Rev. Walker; Nettie Pearl, George James, Carolyn Charlene and Maurice Durrell. Sisters, Rose and Audrey and brothers, Roland and Maurice preceded Rev. Walker in death. Rev. Walker’s life and work were dedicated to the Lord, therefore, it was not a surprise that, “Come Sunday Morning,” August 21, 2011, Reverend Walker transitioned from his earthly assignment to “his glorious heavenly home.”
Rev. Walker was educated in the public schools of Chicago. He graduated from Wendell Phillips High School as Vice President of his class, President of the Negro History Club, President of the Spanish Club as well as a member of the football, basketball and track teams.
He began his piano studies under the direction of the late Sutherland Parker and his wife Mary, of the Parker Piano Studio in Chicago. At the age of twelve, he became the organist of the Providence Baptist Church where the late Rev. N.C. Luntord was the pastor. It. was at the Providence Baptist Church that Rev. Walker was converted and served faithfully until his European studies had begun.
He attended DePaul University, where he was awarded the bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music. He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Infantry. He later studied music at I’Ecole Magda Tagliaferro and at the Sorbonne in Paris. During his career as a concert artist, he performed in Europe, Canada and the Soviet Union. As a gospel organist, he played for many churches in the Chicago area, among them; Israelite Missionary Baptist Church, The Evangelistic Temple Church of God in Christ, Providence Missionary Baptist Church (his home church), and the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.
While serving as an Artist-in-Residence at Southern University, he acknowledged his calling to the Christian Ministry and was licensed by his pastor, Rev. N.C. Lunford and Rev. Dr. Clay Evans. They also ordained him in 1969. Upon his call to the ministry, he enrolled at Colgate-Rochester Divinity School from which he graduated in 1970. While at Colgate, he led the student Black Caucus in an 18 day school closure, protesting the lack of black faculty and black trustees. He also led the campaign to establish the Martin Luther King Program in Black Church Studies, the first program of this nature at a major seminary in the United States. Upon the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Colgate commissioned Rev. Walker to compose a piece in memory of Dr. King. The piece entitled, Requiem for Brother Martin, was premiered at Colgate and later performed in New York at Carnegie Hall in January 1972, under the baton of Dr. Samuel Jones.
In 1970, Rev. Walker was called to pastor the 19th Street Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he served until his retirement in September of 2010. He was instrumental in preparing men and women for various fields of ministry throughout the world. Hallmarks of his ministry included preaching and teaching to thousands, preaching two, 30 revivals, consecrating a missionary, Sandi McFadden to the foreign mission field; licensing or ordaining over thirty persons for the gospel ministry; building and dedicating the 19th Street Baptist Church in Mnquaba, South Africa; and building the Barbara A, Walker Pre-School in South Africa, in addition to initiating numerous community projects. He was the former Chairman and Executive Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc. He was on the Advisory Board of the American Bible Society and a member of the Philadelphia Baptist Minister’s Conference.
Rev. Walker is survived by: his adoring and steadfast wife, Mrs. Barbara A. Walker; two sons, Pierre Walker of Chicago, Illinois and Jason Charles Walker (Erin) of Brooklyn; one daughter, Mercedes Kula Walker of Seattle, two granddaughters, Breanca Hammond and Mahalia Saunders Walker; one grandson, Ellis Kirtley Walker; one brother, George Walker (Paulette) of Saginaw, Mich.; two sisters, Dr. Nettie Walker Wood of Flint, Mich. and Dr. Carolyn Charlene Walker of Chicago; Rev. Clay Evans, Father-in-the Ministry; Rev. Herman Washington and children; Bishop Troy Bronner; Rev. Wilbur Winborne; Rev. Lovejoy Johnson; Rev. Raymond Gordon; Rev. John Jenkins; Rev. Robert Moses; and an innumerable host of devoted relatives, friends, proteges and colleagues.