By Bill Robinson
Frank D. Walker, who in World War II became one of America’s first-ever black military pilots, was laid to rest Friday in the Maple Grove Cemetery, just a short walk from the home where he had lived most of his life.
The cemetery is also near the building that housed the former Richmond High School from which Mr. Walker graduated in 1938.
East Main Street that runs past his home, his high school and his final resting place was given the secondary name, Frank D. Walker Parkway, several years ago.
Family and other mourners gathered at his grave site, where the Rev. Dr. Robert R. Blythe led them in singing “Come and Go to that Land Where I’m Bound.” His funeral had been conducted earlier at the First Baptist Church, Francis Street.
After a life of “unselfish service to his country and undying love for his family,” Mr. Walker was being laid to a well-deserved rest.
Blythe then quoted from Revelation 14:13: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”
Mr. Walker, who was 93 and had been in failing health for about a year, passed away Sunday in his home.
When the United States entered World War II, he volunteered for military service and was selected for flight training at what was then known as the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. A pioneering program to train the nation’s first black military pilots had been created there. He was one of almost 1,000 pilots who became known as the Tuskegee Airmen who served with distinction, escorted Allied bombers flying out of North Africa and then Italy.
After the war, he returned home, married and raised a family. He worked 35 years for the U.S Postal Service and also as a brick mason.
Although he was a man worthy of great recognition, said the Rev. Robert Blythe, Mr. Walker was a humble man who never sought attention.
His father joined the military out of a sense of duty to his country when it was in danger, just as many others of his generation did, Charles Walker said.
Bill Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 624-6690.