A Pine Bluff man who served in the U.S. Army during World War II was awarded the medals he earned during the war during a ceremony Friday morning, more than 70 years after his discharge.
Fulton Walker, now 97, who went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree and was the second African-American to be appointed principal at an all-white school in Arkansas, received the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, World War II Victory Medal, Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar and Honorable Service Lapel Button World War II from U.S. Senator John Boozman.
Walker was born Sept. 1, 1923 near Emerson, the ninth of 10 children born to Cassie Doss and York Walker. The family later moved to Texarkana.
During his freshman year in college, he was drafted into the Army where he served from 1943 to 1946. He was initially sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky where he was trained in a tank battalion but then reassigned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky where he became a truck driver.
“They gave me a truck and I didn’t even know how to drive,” Walker said. “A couple of days later, I was a truck driver.”
He and members of his company were sent overseas in July, 1944 and deployed to England, France, Germany and other places as drivers in the Red Ball Express, whose job was to transport supplies that had arrived at the docks to the front lines, driving mainly at night to avoid enemy aircraft.
Boozman said almost 75 percent of the soldiers assigned to the Red Ball Express were African-Americans and described Walker as a “trail blazer.”
“He was a hero because of the way he led his life,” Boozman said.
After his honorable discharge, Walker reentered Arkansas A.M.& N. College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and English. He went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Education Administration from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1957, becoming one of the first African-Americans to attend U.S. Fayetteville.
After teaching in Rison and Star City, Walker was hired by the Pine Bluff School District in 1965 as an elementary principal and later moved to the central office where he was coordinator of the Federal Title I program. In 1975, he was promoted to Assistant Superintendent in charge of all federal programs and retired from the district in 1986.
In addition to the medals, Walker also received a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol at Washington D.C. and a letter from U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, and Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington designated Feb. 28 as Fulton Walker Day in the City of Pine Bluff.