For Immediate Release
September 11, 2010
Contacts: Neil Tickner, 301 405 4622 or email@example.com
In Memoriam: Dr. Ronald Walters
UPDATE: SEE FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS BELOW
"What was most impressive about him was that he was such a humble man, even in all of his fame."
- Dr. Nina Harris, UM School of Public Policy
Professor Emeritus Ronald Walters, an internationally recognized political scientist, died on September 10 after a long illness. He was 72.
Walters had an illustrious career as a teacher, writer, researcher and political activist. He played major roles in the presidential campaigns of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and earned many prestigious academic, publishing and service awards.
Walters wrote a weekly syndicated column of political commentary that appeared in newspapers around the nation. He remained a powerful intellectual and political force until his death.
"Ron Walters was an eminent and inspiring professor, teacher, author, mentor and human being," said Acting University President Nariman Farvardin. "He had a great impact and made a real difference in the world and to all those who knew him. His death is a tremendous loss. Our sincerest condolences go out to his wife, Patricia, and all his family."
"Professor Walters was a scholarly giant," said California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. "His scholarly work and sound advice, have assisted many past and present members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and other African American political and civic leaders around the country."
This past August, in Walters' last syndicated column, he shared his view from the mountain, recalling Washington in August, 1963, and the "progressive spirit of the original nonviolent march, which held out the hope of racial reconciliation, and that America would finally cash a check of justice that would allow all of us to invest in the great project of democracy."
Then, Dr. Walters reminded his readers that there is still "work to be done...at home," and that African Americans "should try out their local mobilization legs" to prepare for the fall elections. The stakes will be high, he reminded - "jobs and justice and respecting the values of the movement for which so many people gave their lives, time and energy."
In 1958, as a youth leader in the Wichita NAACP, Walters organized a successful sit-in to protest segregation at a local drugstore - two years before the better-known Greensboro sit-ins, adds Maryland colleague, Tamara Wilds Lawson.
Before retiring from fulltime work in July of 2009, Walters carried three major titles at the University of Maryland: Director of the African American Leadership Institute, distinguished leadership scholar at the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, and professor of government and politics. He was internationally known for his expertise on African American leadership and politics, his writing, and his teaching.
"Ron was an inspiration to all, especially those aspiring to be future leaders," recalls his Academy colleague, Nina Harris. "He touched the lives of students through his teaching and mentoring and will be missed by so many. There was a constant stream of media setting up in the Academy of Leadership Library to conduct interviews but yet he seemed unfazed by it all. He was a part of our family, and I am grateful that I was able to be a part of his journey."
One of Walters' former students, makes a similar point. Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings calls him a mentor, whose classes were extremely popular, even though he was a tough grader.
"While he was a quiet man, his opinions always carried a lot of weight in the world of politics and beyond," Cummings said in a statement. "He was a man who consistently told me what I needed to hear even though I may not have wanted to hear it. He touched the lives of all the students who had the honor of being a part of any of his classes."
Walters is survived by his wife, Patricia Ann Walters.
Walters' career blended academic achievement, a bookshelf of publications and significant political activity. He held senior positions in both of Rev. Jesse Jackson's runs for the White House and lived to see the first African American elected to the U.S. presidency.
"Dr. Ron Walters was the preeminent activist and scholar of our times," Jackson recalled to the Chicago Defender. "The good news is that Ron taught so many scholars. There are those who will now bear truth. So, that tradition will be kept alive."
In 1984, he served the Jackson campaign as deputy campaign manager for issues, and held a similar post in 1988.
Walters received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Government with Honors from Fisk University (1963) and both his M.A. in African Studies (1966) and Ph.D. in International Studies (1971) from American University.
Prior to coming to the University of Maryland in 1996, Walters served as professor and chair of the political science department at Howard University, assistant professor and chair of Afro-American studies at Brandeis University, and assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University. Also, he served as visiting professor at Princeton University and as a fellow of the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
Walters was a former member of the governing council of the American Political Science Association. Walters also served as the senior policy staff member for Congressman Charles Diggs, Jr. and Congressman William Gray.
He served as board member of the Black Leadership Forum, the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation, and other organizations.
Dr. Walters wrote over 100 articles and ten books. His book, Black Presidential Politics in America, (1989), won the American Political Science Association's Ralph Bunche Prize and the Best Book award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS). Pan Africanism in the African Diaspora (1993) also won the NCOBPS Best Book award.
His most recent books were White Nationalism, Black Interests: Conservative Public Policy and the Black Community (2003), Freedom Is Not Enough: Black Voters, Black Candidates, and American Presidential Politics (2005), and The Price of Racial Reconciliation (2008).
The University of Maryland libraries summarizes some of his major publications online.
Walters won many awards, including a distinguished faculty award from Howard University (1982), Distinguished Scholar/Activist Award, Black Scholar Magazine (1984), W.E.B. DuBois/Frederick Douglass Award, African Heritage Studies Association (1983), the Ida Wells Barnett Award, Association of Black School Educators, (1985), the Fannie Lou Hammer Award, National Conference of Black Political Scientists (1996), Distinguished Faculty Contributions to Campus Diversity, University of Maryland (1999), and the Ida B. Wells-W.E.B. DuBois Award for Distinguished Scholarship from the National Council for Black Studies (2000).
He was awarded the honor of "Alumnus of the Year" by the School of International Service of the American University in 2000.
Walters frequently appeared on local and major media as an analyst of African American politics, such as CNN, CBS News, Nightline, NBC Today Show, C-SPAN, the PBS Newshour and Think Tank, and All Things Considered (NPR). Walters wrote a weekly opinion column for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and Web sites.
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