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Marvin Walker


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CARROLLTON: Marvin Walker, 74, funeral director


In his business, Marvin Walker helped black people at their most vulnerable. In his community, he fought for their civil rights.

His experience as a medic in the Korean War led him to decide to become a mortician, said his sister, Carol Pitts of Fayetteville, N.C.

Upon his return to the United States, Mr. Walker attended Atlanta Mortuary College, became a licensed funeral director and in 1960 opened Walker Funeral Home in his native Carrollton. It is now one of the largest black-owned funeral homes in Carroll County.

"When he started he had just one employee; today there's maybe 10," his sister said. Mr. Walker had three qualities that attracted business, she added: "Marvin was caring to people going through bereavement; he offered the best possible price; and when the funeral was over, he kept in contact with the family to see how they were doing. Often they would come back to him for advice on other issues."

He semiretired in 1997, handing over the business to his sons Ricky Walker and Crawford Walker and to his daughter, Tracy Freeman. Marvin Walker, 74, of Carrollton, died Monday of a heart attack at Tanner Medical Center. The funeral was Saturday. Walker Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.

Civil rights activism was an ongoing theme of Mr. Walker's life. He helped found the Carroll County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the 1960s and served as its president through the 1980s.

"Marvin started the first sit-in at a Carrollton restaurant," said Grady Houston of Carrollton, who was active in the Carroll County NAACP chapter.

In addition, Mr. Walker fought for the hiring of the first black police officer and first black firefighter in Carroll County. He fought for the abolition of the one-commissioner system of government because he believed it unfairly denied blacks a voice. He initiated a suit against Carroll County in 1984 and two years later testified in federal court that white elected officials in the county were often unresponsive to the needs of the black community and had been slow to appoint blacks to boards that oversee hospitals, libraries and public housing.

Local black residents could count on Mr. Walker's help. "When I was on the Carrollton police force, he would come down to the jail and sign bonds to get people out," Mr. Houston said. "He was willing to do what it took to help people. I respected him very highly."

In 1987 the Georgia NAACP honored Mr. Walker with its Outstanding Service Award.

Survivors include his wife, Sarah S. Walker; a daughter, Tracy Freeman of Carrollton; five sons, Ricky Walker, Kelvin Jerome Walker, Barry Walker and Crawford Walker, all of Carrollton, and Gregory Bailey of Douglasville; five brothers, Arvel Walker of Villa Rica and Melvin Walker, Ozie Walker, Larry Walker and Samuel Walker, all of Atlanta; two other sisters, Pansy Ackey of Carrollton and Jo Alice Stallings of Decatur; an adopted granddaughter, Shante Walker of Carrollton; 14 additional grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

© 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Dec. 10, 2006
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