Birthday Celebration for Maggie Walker
Maggie Lena Walker always knew how to draw and hold a crowd. On the 134th anniversary of her 1867 birth, on July 15, 2001, a crowd of 3000 assembled in her honor at the corner of 2nd and Leigh Streets in Richmond to enjoy music, fellowship, and learning. The National Park Service joined with Downtown Presents, the Maggie L. Walker Historical Foundation, and several commercial sponsors to put on the birthday event as part of Richmond's Big Gig. Several blocks of Leigh Street and Second Street were closed to traffic in order to give space for three musical attractions: Larry Bland, Renaissance, and the First African Baptist Singers. Children amused themselves with craft activities while their parents kept time to the music and waved fans to keep the warm air moving. Hundreds of participants waited patiently in line to tour Mrs. Walker's home and the National Park Service Visitor Center. Inside they could see her well-stocked library and gracious dining room, among the many rooms of the house, but they had to partake of the birthday cake outside where the crumbs and crowd could be better accommodated. Many visitors remarked that this was their first visit to the house and that they wished they had come sometime earlier in the twenty years that it has been open to the public as part of the National Park system!
The day of birthday celebration had started early that morning at the Evergreen Cemetery where a crowd gathered to place a memorial wreath on Mrs. Walker's grave. The ceremony was planned by the Maggie L. Walker Historical Foundation and included a motorcade of antique cars and a horse-drawn carriage. The keynote speaker was scheduled to be the Reverend Dennis Thomas of First African Baptist Church, Mrs. Walker's church, but when the arrival of the motorcade was delayed, the Reverend Dr. Wilson Shannon, of the First Baptist Church in Centrailia, delivered his own magnificent words in honor of Mrs. Walker.
We will celebrate Mrs. Walker's 135th birthday anniversary next year on July 15, 2002, so plan to be with us.