Charles Walker, advocate for peace, social justice

Posted: July 29, 2004

Charles Coates Walker, 83, of Cheyney, an advocate for peace and social justice, died of complications of diabetes July 11 at Barclay Friends Nursing Home in West Chester.

In 1991, after more than 50 years as a peace activist, Mr. Walker traveled to India to receive the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation Award, which recognizes those who promote the nonviolent ideals of Mahatma Gandhi.

During World War II, Mr. Walker, a Quaker and conscientious objector, went to jail rather than fight. He later protested against the war in Vietnam. In the 1950s and 1960s, he was active in the civil-rights movement, working on freedom rides, student sit-ins and voter registration. He met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., in 1956.

In 1963 he was a coordinator for the March on Washington and later advised Cesar Chavez on farm-labor problems. In the 1960s, he helped organize the World Peace Brigades - now Peace Brigades International - and was past president of the Pennsylvania Committee to Abolish the Death Penalty. He was the author of 22 books and monographs including a handbook, "Organizing for Nonviolent Direct Action".

For 28 years, he held positions with the American Friends Service Committee, including serving as college secretary for the Middle Atlantic Regional Office from 1960 to 1968. He then was a conflict-resolution specialist at Haverford College and with the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends. After retiring in 1986, he devoted his time to the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, which he headed for 11 years.

Mr. Walker grew up on a farm near Gap, Pa. He became involved in the peace movement while attending Elizabethtown College where he met his future wife, Marian Groff Walker. As a young man he turned down the chance to try out as a pitcher with the Harrisburg Senators farm team to work in the peace movement. He later played baseball in local amateur leagues while raising his family in Cheyney, where he was a Phillies fan. When his daughter Gloria Burger competed in billiards tournaments, he coached her to a world championship. In addition to his wife of 62 years and daughter, Mr. Walker is survived by daughters Winifred Mecherly, Brenda Beadenkopf and Valerie Peery; sons Larry and Allan; a brother; 23 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Concord Friends Meeting, Thornton and Concord Roads, Concordville, Pa.

Memorial donations may be made to Concord Friends Meeting, Box 23, Concordville, Pa. 19331.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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