Willie A. Walker Jr., WPVI cameraman

Posted: May 05, 2005

Willie A. Walker Jr., 51, a WPVI-TV (Channel 6) cameraman who brought skill, sensitivity and news judgment to his Philadelphia stories, died of liver disease Friday at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. He lived in Glenside.

Mr. Walker worked at television stations in Charleston, S.C., and Buffalo, N.Y., before coming to Philadelphia in 1986 to work for Channel 6's Action News.

"Willie was reassuring to work with," said Denise James, a Channel 6 reporter. "He was not afraid to immerse himself in community problems. His vision gave truth and light to the story."

In 1992, Mr. Walker became director of photography for WPVI's video magazine program Visions. That position allowed Mr. Walker to photograph, edit, and develop stories.

"He was always part of the solution for the story," said Linda Munich, vice president of public affairs for the station.

Born in Atlantic City, Mr. Walker grew up in Newark, N.J., and graduated in 1971 from St. Bernard's School in Gladstone, where he excelled in football, basketball and track.

He went to King College in Bristol, Tenn., on a basketball scholarship but dropped out in 1973 to join the Air Force. He served Stateside for two years and was discharged in 1975. That same year, he married Josephine Kelly. They each brought a child to the marriage (she a son, Jermaine Kelly, and he a daughter, Latoya Edwards), and they had one of their own, Willie 3d. They divorced in 1980.

Mr. Walker learned to operate a video camera at Trident Technical College in Charleston, S.C., and in the late 1970s started working as a news cameraman at WSCS-TV (Channel 5) in Charleston.

In the early 1980s, Mr. Walker moved to Buffalo, N.Y., to work at WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) on PM Magazine. He met Sandra Howard while on assignment there, and they married in 1981. She brought a daughter, Bonita Williams, to the marriage. The couple moved to Cheltenham when Mr. Walker was hired at Channel 6 in 1986.

Mr. Walker was a religious man. He studied theology at the Center for Urban Theological Studies, 1300 Hunting Park Ave., where he got an associate degree in Bible studies.

Two years ago, Mr. Walker, who had been ill for five years, received a liver transplant. Nevertheless, he continued to work at the station and at his church, Freedom Bible Fellowship Church at 6100 W. Columbia Ave., where he was a minister, as much as he could. He wanted to resume his theological studies, but it became too much for him.

Visions producer Warren Trent said: "We spent many hours traveling in the van together. As Willie transitioned to a minister, we spoke about God, life, family. It wasn't all about work. His life centered around being a good Christian."

"As sick as he was, Willie drew his strength from his desire to get healthy so he could minister to others in need," said Lee Farber, an editor at Channel 6.

"He brought calm to the chaos of deadlines and chasing the story," producer Art Rubalcava said.

Mr. Walker had had a great singing voice since he was a child. "Willie was always singing and putting on talent shows for us in the house," said his father, Willie Sr.

Mr. Walker sang with a band in the South along the "Chitlin Circuit" while living in Charleston. Later, in 1983, he recorded a single, "Watching the Ladies," with Platinum Gold Publishing. The funky song sold well throughout Europe and got airplay in the U.S.

In addition to his father, wife, sons, daughters and former wife, Mr. Walker is survived by his mother, Delores; eight grandchildren; and a sister.

A funeral was held yesterday. Burial will be at 10 a.m. today in Ivy Hill Cemetery, 1201 Easton Rd.

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