Park to be named after local civil rights pioneer

The Bremerton City Council will vote at its June 20 meeting on a proposal to name an Anderson Cove waterfront park property acquired last year in honor of local civil rights pioneer Lillian Walker.

Walker, who died earlier this year at 98, is a local legend who following World War II was the secretary for the local NAACP branch and led voter registration efforts and also organized support for passage of the Fair Employment Practices Act passed by the State Legislature in 1949.

In 1997 Kitsap County's Martin Luther King Memorial Scholarship Fund Committee named Walker and her husband, James, who died three years later, as "MLK Citizens of the Century" in honor of their combined 100 years of community service.   In addition, she was given a Founder's Award by the YWCA, a Golden Acorn by the PTA, a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Democratic Party and a Liberty Bell award.

The Bremerton Park and Recreation Commission reviewed the city's naming policy and voted unanimously May 22 to Anderson Cove Park after Walker. The city council was set to consider the proposal at this week's study session and will vote on the measure at its June 20 business meeting.

Walker was born in 1913 in rural Illinois. She met James, who was a musician at the time, in Chicago in 1937 and the couple married June 20, 1941. They soon moved Bremerton where James had lined up a job in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

The Walkers arrived in a Bremerton that was booming, but struggling with racial tension as the local African American population swelled right alongside that of white residents. Walker described Bremerton at that time as a "white supremacist town" and went about fighting bigotry head-on with her husband. While Bremerton's population shrunk following the war boom, the racial animus persisted. So too, did the Walkers in their struggle for justice and equality.

Beyond the Walkers' dedication to the struggle for civil rights for all, the couple were active in Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, the PTA Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls and much more.


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