Carter Walker ’52 worked his entire life to support Woodberry Forest School’s mission to develop in its students, under Christian principles, a high sense of honor and moral integrity. He believed in this so strongly because he was determined to carry on his family’s long tradition of servant leadership at the school his great-grandfather founded in 1889.
Mr. Walker died February 16 at the age of eighty-five.
“My service to the family’s efforts to maintain an excellent, all-boy, 400-student boarding school has been totally rewarding. One way or another, I have served Woodberry the best that I could and am honored to have been a recipient of the J. Carter Walker award, named for a man I always admired,” he told his cousin, Frank S. Walker, Jr. ’53 in a family history titled The Walkers of Woodberry Forest.
Mr. Walker not only admired his grandfather, J. Carter Walker, he was named for him. Coleman Carter Walker, Jr. was the grandson of Woodberry’s legendary headmaster and the great-grandson of Robert Stringfellow Walker, Woodberry’s founder. Carter’s father, Coleman Walker ’20, was J. Carter Walker’s son and served for twenty five years on the board of trustees, including nearly twenty years as chairman.
Mr. Carter Walker was a driving force on Woodberry’s board of trustees from 1971 until 1983, and again as chairman of the board from 1992 to 1994, and for many years later as a trustee emeritus. During the late 1970s Mr. Walker chaired the long-range planning committee of the board. When that group recommended that Woodberry begin a capital campaign, Mr. Walker became chair of the development committee and national chairman of the Capital Development Program, which raised $12.4 million between 1977 and 1982. The school’s archives are filled with the many letters and memos Mr. Walker sent out to fellow alumni and to school leaders while undertaking this work.
The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education recognized Mr. Walker as one of its volunteers of the year after the successful conclusion of the capital campaign, and Mr. Walker received the J. Carter Walker Award — named in honor of the grandfather he admired so much — at the 1983 Captain’s Club Dinner. He was such a strong advocate and fundraiser for Woodberry that he returned as national chairman for the Centennial Campaign that celebrated the school’s 100th birthday.
Born into the Woodberry Family
Carter Walker was born April 21, 1934 to Lucie and Coleman Walker. The family was living in Winston-Salem at the time but moved to Darien, Connecticut when Mr. Walker was a teenager. He entered Woodberry as a thirteen-year-old second-form student in one of his grandfather’s last years as headmaster. And as Mr. Walker recalled in the family history, a summons to the headmaster’s office was just as unnerving for him as it was for any other Woodberry boy.
“One day I was called into his office. I was so scared and nervous! J.C.W. wanted to talk to me about my apparent poor grades. He informed me I needed to read my history assignments and to work harder in English. But, he said, I was doing well in math! I was so surprised and upset that he knew so much about me that I started to cry. J.C.W. comforted me by giving me some coins. After that meeting, I applied myself to my studies so I wouldn’t get called back into J.C.W.’s office again!”
In those days it was common for parents to write to the headmaster regularly about their son’s progress. And while the parental notes in Mr. Walker’s later years as a student, addressed to Headmaster Shaun Kelly, are fairly standard, those earlier letters are quite unique.
One letter from Coleman to his uncle, Woodberry business manager Joseph Walker, discusses Carter’s monthly allowance. But the headmaster thought the $10 a month being sent by Coleman was too generous, and said so in a handwritten note at the bottom of his son’s letter.
“Dear father,” begins a letter dated March 2, 1948. “I have asked Carter to come around and have one or more talks with you about his work. I should be most appreciative if meanwhile you would check up on him with his teachers.”
Having survived those early trips to the headmaster’s office, Mr. Walker went on to enjoy five successful years at Woodberry. He served on the Monitor Board, worked on the Talon, and lettered in varsity football as a fullback. He also sang in the chapel choir and was a member of the German and rifle clubs.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a master’s degree in business from Columbia University. He also served in the United States Navy.
Mr. Walker married Julia Biddle Armour, a graduate of Foxcroft School and Bradford College, in 1961 in a ceremony in Chicago. They had two children — Coleman and Lee — and lived in New York City; Greenwich, Connecticut; and later Washington, Connecticut. The family loved spending summers in the Adirondack Mountains, and Mr. Walker was very proud to have summited each of the forty-six peaks in the range that are taller than 4,000 feet, a project that took him nearly the entire 1980s.
In 1989, as Woodberry celebrated its 100th birthday with the conclusion of the Centennial Campaign, Mr. Walker reflected on the school’s enduring place in his life and the life of so many others.
“As a great-grandson of the school’s founder and as a grandson of Woodberry’s first headmaster, I wish to express on behalf of my father and all other members of the Walker family our deep and abiding gratitude to all the other members of the Woodberry family who have helped Woodberry Forest School become the great school that Captain Robert S. Walker first envisioned one hundred years ago,” he wrote in the Woodberry Forest Magazine & Journal. For him it was a venture in faith. For us it is faith shared and renewed.”
Mr. Walker began his career as a loan officer for First National City Bank. He went on to work at Citibank, Hambro American Bank, Central Securities Corp., and Neville, Rodie, and Shaw.
Mr. Walker is preceded in death by his wife, who died in 2011. He is survived by a son, Carter Coleman Walker III; a daughter, Julia Biddle Robinson, known to friends and family as Lee Lee; four grandchildren; and a brother, Andrews Walker ’57.