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Walker known as scholar, hero

Forrest A. Walker was a scholar that believed in honesty and giving back to the community. He lived a life filled with many accomplishments. He impacted the lives of many people whether it was in deed, education or example, but is thought of by many as a remarkable hero.

Walker was born on Oct. 8, 1929, in Pittsburg, Mo., to Nieta and Forrest Walker.

He grew up in Galveston, Texas and later moved to Texas City where he graduated from high school in 1947. He went to college at Texas A&I (Now Texas A&M-Kingsville) where he earned his bachelor’s and his master’s degrees in history.

After completing his master’s degree, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Shortly after his discharge, he met Mary Joe Duck.

“When I first met him, I knew he was the one I would marry,” she said. “I thought he was delightful.”

They were married on Dec. 21, 1956 in Texas City.

Soon after their marriage, Forrest began his studies in the doctoral program at the University of Oklahoma and completed his doctorate in 1961. He taught at Lamarque Junior High School in Lamarque, Texas, and for two years at Florence State College in Alabama before moving to Portales to become a professor in the history department at Eastern New Mexico University in 1963.

Forrest Walker retired in 1993 with a Professor Emeritus status at ENMU.

During his 30 years at the university, he served as assistant dean of liberal arts and chairman of the history department.

He was an active member of the Kiwanis Club for many years and served as program chairman.

Walker was published in a number of national journals, and was in the process of writing a book about the life of Samuel L. Curtis who was a Civil War general.

Family members recalled the trips they had taken to Europe, New York and Washington, D.C, to name a few, during their family vacations.

“He had a love for history that kept him faithful to his research,” said Mary Joe, Walker’s wife. “He was a walking encyclopedia on American history. He could read something and remember it 10 years later. He was a great influence for me.”

Myra Bass, Walker’s daughter, described her father as being one of the finest men she had ever known. “He left a love behind in the people he affected that was unconditional,” she said.

David Walker, Walker’s son, described his father as being a hard worker. “He believed in setting a goal then making it happen. He had a deep impact on me,” said David.

In 1947, an explosion in Walker’s home town, known as one of the worst industrial and civilian disasters to occur in Texas City, claimed the lives of more than 600 people out of a population of 16,000. Walker became a hero in his hometown because he led many to safety after the explosions.

Bill Treyhand, afriend of Walker, said there was not a day that passes that he does not remember Walker.

“If it weren’t for him, I might not be here today,” he said. “I heard Walker’s voice calling my name from amongst a crowd of people. He plucked me out of the herd, and explained to me that things would be OK even if it didn’t look that way.”

Treyhand said about Walker, in a letter to his family, “A hero has left us, we are all the lesser for his leaving.”

Walker’s survivors include his wife, Mary Joe Walker of Portales; son, David Walker of Clovis; daughter and son-in-law, Myra and Herbert W. Bass of Nederland, Texas; and two grandchildren, Mathew Morrison and Mary Morrison.

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