Maggie L. Walker’s business successes, her dedication to African American uplift, and her devotion to social justice garnered her widespread recognition in her own lifetime. In 1905, a national black press featured Walker alongside such noteworthy individuals as Mary Church Terrell, T. Thomas Fortune, and George Washington Carver in a poster titled, “101 Prominent Colored People.” Two years later, Booker T. Washington acknowledged Mrs. Walker and her bank in his publication, The Negro in Business.
In November of 1924, The Independent Order of St. Luke praised Walker with a “Testimonial of Love,” a program and publication to honor her 25th year as the Order’s Right Worthy Grand Secretary Treasurer. During that occasion, Virginia Governor E. Lee Trinkle remarked:“If the State of Virginia had done no more, in fifty years, with the funds spent on the education of Negroes than educate Mrs. Walker, the State would have been amply repaid for its outlay and efforts.”
For Mrs. Walker’s commitment to education, Virginia Union University awarded her an honorary Master of Science degree in 1925. In 1934, the City of Richmond declared October as “Maggie L. Walker Month” in honor of all her accomplishments. More...
Mrs. Walker died on December 15, 1934 at the age of 70, following complications with diabetes Her funeral was one of the largest in the city at that time. On a cold rainy day, a large funeral procession made its way from the front steps of Mrs. Walker's home to First African Baptist Church and on to Evergreen Cemetery. Children were let out of school early, city officials rerouted traffic, and businesses flew their flags at half-staff. Even the mayor of Richmond attended the event along with thousands of others who braved the weather to pay their respects.
Walker's remarkable story has not vanished with time. Four years following her death, the City dedicated a new high school in Mrs. Walker's honor. Today, it is the prestigious Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government International and Studies. Similarly, a middle school in Brooklyn, NY bears the leader's name. Today streets in Richmond and Newport News, VA carry the Maggie Walker name. In 1978, the Federal Government made Mrs. Walker's Richmond home a National Historic Site to preserve and interpret her rich story for generations to come.
Mrs. Walker was an inspirational woman with a lasting legacy. Leading by example, her life is the story of the American dream. She was the daughter of a formerly enslaved African American widow who taught her values of leadership and a tireless work ethic. Mrs. Walker applied these lessons to a successful career as a businesswoman and community activist. Mrs. Walker achieved her accomplishments by countering blatant sexual and racial discrimination with her own brand of determination, cooperation, faith, and intelligence. Through her guidance of the Independent Order of St. Luke, Walker demonstrated that African American men and women could be leaders in business, politics, and education during a time when society insisted on the contrary.