Bill Walker

Active - 1943 - 1992  |   Died - Jan 17, 1992 in Woodland Hills, CA  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Crime

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In recalling his courtroom scene in To Kill a Mockingbird, Gregory Peck recalled the vital contribution of African American actor Bill Walker, who was cast as the Reverend Sikes. "All the black people in the balcony stood," Peck noted. "My two kids didn't. When Bill said to them 'Stand up, children, your father is passing,' he wrapped up the Academy Award for me." The son of a freed slave, Walker began his stage career at a time when black actors were largely confined to shuffling, eye-rolling "Yowzah boss" bit parts. While the harsh economic realities of show business dictated that Walker would occasionally have to take less than prestigious roles as butlers, cooks, valets, and African tribal chieftains, he lobbied long and hard to assure that other actors of his race would be permitted to portray characters with more than a modicum of dignity. He also was a tireless worker in the field of Civil Rights, frequently laying both his career and his life on the line. Walker's Broadway credits included Harlem, The Solid South and Golden Dawn; his film credits were legion. Bill Walker was married to actress Peggy Cartwright, who as a child was one of the stars of the Our Gang silent comedies.

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