Bill Walker papers, 1950-1978

Overview of the Collection

Walker, Bill, 1896-1992
Bill Walker papers
1950-1978 (inclusive)
.45 cubic ft. (1 box)
Collection Number
Papers of a television and film actor who is best remembered for his role as Reverend Sykes in the 1962 film "To Kill a Mockingbird".
American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming
American Heritage Center
University of Wyoming
1000 E. University Ave.
Dept. 3924
Laramie, WY
Telephone: 3077663756
Access Restrictions
Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes, and the collection is open to the public.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

William Franklin “Bill” Walker (1896-1992) was an African American television and film actor best remembered for his role as Reverend Sykes in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird. Born in Pendleton, Indiana, he attended local schools and enrolled in Butler College in Indianapolis, Indiana. Walker then pursued an acting career and made his first film appearance in 1946 as a bit player in The Killers. He went on to appear in more than 100 films and television shows although the industry limited him mainly to roles as a domestic servant. As the racial climate in Hollywood began to improve in the 1940s, Walker began to portray a wider variety of characters, including doctors and diplomats. Eventually he moved on to directing and producing films. In the late 1940s Walker became a civil rights activist. In 1952, Walker was elected as a member the Screen Actors Guild Board of Directors, where he served until 1971. Walker remained active in the film industry until the 1980s. Walker was married to Canadian actress Peggy Cartwright, a member of the original Our Gang troupe.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection contains a undated publicity sheet with photos of Walker distributed by the agency Abrams-Rubaloff and Associates; a February 1970 news release written by Walker about his career for “Negro History Week”; a 1978 prospectus for McDonald’s advertising showing Walker as one of the customers depicted; and a 1970 program for Color Me Black!, a production that appeared in Sacramento, California, for which Walker was master of ceremonies.

There are remarks by Walker given to the Screen Actors Guild on May 7, 1953 titled “More and Better Roles for Negroes in Motion Pictures;” photocopies of articles relating to Walker’s career and about African Americans in the film industry (1956-1969); and photocopies of two telegrams to Walker, one from John L. Dales, National Executive Secretary of the Screen Actors Guild, congratulating Walker on the success of his performance in the play Purlie Victorious! in 1962 and another (1958) from Lee and Ira Gershwin inviting Walker to a dinner party for the Porgy and Bess! company at the Gershwin’s home.

Additionally, the collection contains screenplays. There is an undated screen adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Deer in the Works! in which Walker was slated to play an old man. There are also two screenplays written by Walker. One of these, an undated screenplay titled Mr. Charles Evans Dykes, is about an African American chef in an upscale restaurant called “The Virginia Room”. The other is a 1974 screenplay titled Love Sweet Love about an interracial relationship.

There is also a 1970 cover letter from Dr. Ruth Harmer, author of The High Cost of Dying and board member of Continental Association of Funeral and Memorial Services regarding a talk given by Walker to the Association titled “On Funerals,” in which Walker states his perspectives on the funeral industry. The talk is attached.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Copyright Information

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Preferred Citation

Preferred Citation

Item Description, Box Number, Folder Number, Collection Name, Collection Number, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Related Materials

Related Materials

There are no known other archival collections created by Bill Walker at the date of processing.

Acquisition Information

Acquisition Information

This material was received from Bill Walker in 1980.

Processing Note

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Subordinate Component # 1Return to Top

The American Heritage Center is in the process of converting its older container lists to a more accessible format. This link is to an older version of a container list.


Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Actors and actresses -- United States.
  • African American entertainers.
  • African American motion picture actors and actresses.
  • African American screenwriters.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- 20th century.
  • African Americans in advertising.
  • African Americans in the performing arts.
  • Motion picture actors and actresses -- United States.

Personal Names

  • Cartwright, Peggy.

Corporate Names

  • Screen Actors Guild.

Titles within the Collection

  • To kill a mockingbird (Motion picture : 1962).