Lieutenant Colonel James A. Walker

Wells Fargo is very proud that former team members were part of the (again-) famous Tuskegee Airmen. We have blogged about this several times.

With the release of Red Tails a couple weeks ago, I told of our search within the Company for other team members with ties to these fliers, and shared a couple. We have long known of Lieutenant Colonel James A. Walker who, like George Roberts, joined Wells Fargo when his military career ended.

Col. James Walker, combat ready (Click for larger image in a new window)

James Walker was a Personal Banking Officer in Hayward, Calif., from 1965-1979. We corresponded with Walker himself several years ago—with Red Tails invigorating interest in the Tuskegee Airmen and their families, we wanted to connect with Walker’s family, both to get their recollections and to get their permission to share images and stories.

We recently did communicate with these wonderful people, and they have a wealth of memories about Walker and his service to Wells Fargo, and to our country!

“We had to fight in order to fight.”

James Walker was born in Manning, S.C., in 1918. He first took flight training at Hampton Institute and graduated in 1941. He trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field, one of 19 who graduated in the class of 1943, and finished second in his class.

Lt. Col. Walker (Click for larger image in a new window)Before Tuskegee, the Army had been very reluctant to train African Americans as pilots. Racial discrimination in America at that time was rigid, despite the abilities of people like Walker. “We had to fight in order to fight,” Walker said in a 1994 interview.

Walker was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, whose major action was escorting bombers. Walker flew 80 missions; then, in July 1944, he was escorting a crippled B-24 bomber over Yugoslavia, when he was forced to bail out of his flak-damaged P-51 Mustang. He was met in a field by pistol-waving teenager.

Luckily, the youth was one of the good guys—partisans who helped him and other downed Allied fliers evade capture. Walker returned to duty after 39 days.

During the war, Walker flew 102 missions in all. He returned to Tuskegee as a flight instructor in 1948. He retired from the US Air Force as a Lt. Col. in 1964.

Military teamwork served Walker well when he joined Wells Fargo. He completed a bank management training program and became a loan officer in Hayward. When Wells Fargo began a Personal Banker program, Walker was in the first class to complete it, and the only African American in that first program. He continued with Wells Fargo in Hayward until he retired in 1979.

Walker was an active volunteer in retirement, including being named Hayward’s Senior Volunteer of the Year. He was active in the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., the organization of persons who had trained in that program and served their country. In February 2003, he was honored at an event at Wells Fargo Headquarters in San Francisco.

Walker, 1979 (Click for larger image in a new window) Lt. Col. James A. Walker passed away in 2004.

In 1994, Walker attended a convention of Tuskegee Airmen in Chicago. By chance, he met Aleksandr Zivkovic, who had immigrated to America in 1971. Zivkovic, as a teenager, had been a Yugoslav partisan fighting against the Nazis—and helping downed fliers escape and get back to duty.

Walker and Zivkovic had met 50 years earlier, in that field in Yugoslavia.

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17 Responses to Lieutenant Colonel James A. Walker

  1. Kevin Reaux says:

    The Man was simply awesome. We are so proud to say he was one of ours too, Wells Fargo.

  2. Rosie says:

    Great Article, but no mention of which War this was that Tuskegee airmen entered or served in. Younger generations of AA don’t know this or get in history class at school.

  3. Jackie Jones says:

    Proud to know that he was a former Team Member and proud of what he and the remaining Tuskegee Airmen did to protect our country.

  4. Eric Hill says:

    LT.Coln James A. Walker was a pioneer and ambassador for the United States military and Air Force. He was the prime example to need to give up on what is right and what to believe to fight. I give him praises to Lt. Col. James A. Walker and the other Tuskegee Airmen. That made extreme sacrafices.

  5. Sherry says:

    This is truly an amazing article. I am inspired by Mr. James Walker and his legacy, and his committment and service to our Country as well! WOW! very proud of this man!

    Thanks!

  6. Loretta Williamson says:

    Reading about LT. Col. Walker was truly inspirational. Being one of very few in the military as well as working with Wells Fargo was a challenge for him but his abilities and determination rose above all of the racial obstacles that came his way. Being an African American woman I can appreciate hearing such a wonderful story and I am very thankful that Wells Fargo made this story available on our home page!

  7. Sylvia Gaines says:

    Wonderful!!!!

  8. Roxie Harrington says:

    Heroes, one and all…I wish I’d known Lt. Col. Walker

  9. Donna Maranto says:

    This was a great read! What an incredible man Mr. Walker was. My thanks to his family for sharing and thanks to all our Vets that served our country so honorably.

  10. Cecil Turnipseed says:

    What a great story.His family should be very proud of one of our brave Airman. He feels like one of our own. Roll Tide!! Cecil in Homewood, AL

  11. Howard B Webb says:

    This article on James A Walker, has truely inspired me, and makes me proud to be both an African American, and proud to be a part of such a diverse team with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Thank you for telling his story. Howard Webb Mortgage Specialist St. Louis Fulfillment center.

  12. Lisa Farber says:

    What a great story! What a hero and a great example to us all. My grandfather was a full blooded Cheyenne tribal member, who fought for us over in France, during WWI. “Fighting to fight” hits home for people in the Native American community, too. This story really touches me and I’m tickled pink that this wonderful man also happened to work for Wells Fargo!

    Wells Fargo Team Member

  13. Chante Robinson says:

    What a beautiful story. I love to hear stories that celebrate African Americans and the obstacles that they faced in the pass. As a young African American woman, knowing that my people before me worked so hard to make sure that we now have the opportunities that was once not alotted to us. Thank you Lt.Col. Walker, and thanks to his family for providing this information. It’s a good feeling knowing that I work for the same company that this great man worked for. Thanks Wells Fargo!

  14. Ivan Cornelius Baldwin says:

    Lt. Col. Walker was a great friend who would seldom discuss his wartime heroics unless requested to. He and his wife Helen have been and will always be missed by me and my wife.

  15. Richard McClanahan says:

    My wife, and Helen taught school together in Fremont, Ca. That’s how I met Jim Walker. The four of us became good friends. I am so proud to have known Lt. Col. Walker.

  16. Tom Radovich says:

    I lived across from the Walkers in the Hayward Hills and I just knew him as Mr Walker and his son Kenny was a great friend of mine. I knew Mr Walker was a fighter pilot in ww2 but I had no idea he flew so many missions. Great Information. Thank You

  17. Keith Pratt says:

    I remember Mr. Walker, his wife Helen, and their three children–Sam, Kenny, and Cynthia–from the time they lived near us in Hayward in the late 60′s. Mr. Walker belied his hero status with a shy, retiring demeanor truly fitting a man of his stature. I can remember attending a birthday party for one of the kids with Helen acting as the consummate hostess–a real lady she was. I only regret that Mr. Walker’s humility prevented him from talking about his experiences with my father, who revered WWII vets of Mr. Walker’s caliber.

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