WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service of World War II veteran Fulton William Walker in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Walker was born in Emerson, Arkansas in 1923. He was raised on the family farm with his 10 brothers and sisters. After graduating high school, Walker was drafted into the Army when he was 19-years-old and began his military service on July 29, 1943.
Walker’s father was visibly shaken by his son’s departure. “I already had three brothers in service, and when I was called it was almost more than my father could bear,” Walker said.
During his training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Walker learned how to drive a truck, a skill that would be key to his success overseas.
“I didn’t know how to drive anything. I hadn’t even learned to drive a car,” Walker remarked.
After arriving in England, Walker and other African American soldiers didn’t receive a warm welcome. They were treated poorly simply because the color of their skin. When his mission took him to France and Germany, he recalls being treated well.
Walker was part of the famous Red Ball Express, an operation primarily manned by African American soldiers that convoyed much-needed supplies to Allied forces for 82 days. The Red Ball Express played a vital role in helping bring an end to the war in Europe.
“We just traveled, sometimes [for] days, sometimes under dark, it just depends where we were,” Walked said.
During his assignment with the Red Ball Express, Walker developed a friendship with James Williams, a fellow Arkansan. “We called him ‘royal jester’…because he liked to have a lot of fun,” Walker fondly recalled.
Following the end of the war, he remained in Germany to help rebuild and restore the country. Some of his missions included transporting German POWs back to their hometowns.
“It looked like a tornado had come through it.” He became friends with the locals and was eventually sent off with a memorable farewell filled with gifts and gestures to remember his stay.
When he returned stateside, Walker used the GI Bill to continue his education and enrolled at AM&N College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he studied English and social studies. While in school, Walker married his high school sweetheart. The couple had one daughter, Phyllis Keele Walker.
After college, Walker became an educator, coach and principal in rural Arkansas. In 1965, he was hired by the Pine Bluff School District where he served as a principal for several schools and eventually oversaw all federal programs in the district.
While he had much success in education, he is most proud of being a role model for his family.
“Fulton Walker’s dedication to serving others, whether it be in the military or in his community, is inspiring and a reminder that a single person can make a difference. I am extremely grateful for his service and I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories,” Boozman said.
In February, Boozman presented Walker with the service medals he earned including the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medals and the World War II Victory Medal.
Boozman will submit Walker’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative by the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.