Former band students and family will host a public tribute, “’Tis the Sounds,” honoring the Rev. Leo Joseph Walker Sr., Sunday, Dec. 22, at 4 p.m., at First Baptist Church, 1116 Amulet St. in the H.B. Barnum Fellowship Hall.
Former students are invited to present a musical tribute in a group ensemble on their instrument. Contact Michael Kennedy at 713) 503-7828 or Gwen Antee Hardison-Davis at (318) 290-7973 for more information. Walker is the son of the late Carrie Lee Jean Baptiste Walker Bell and Berner Leon Walker. His mother was the oldest daughter of Mr. Ezekiel Jean Baptiste Sr., and Mayana Bobb Jean Baptiste who spent their lives in Natchitoches.
He is the great grandson of Flaviant Jean Baptiste Sr. Walker graduated from Central High School in Natchitoches in 1962 as valedictorian. He attended Grambling College, now Grambling State University, and earned a bachelor of science degree in instrumental music education in 1966.
He continued his education at Northwestern State University, Louisiana State University and Northeast Louisiana University. He taught music and band in the Natchitoches Parish School System for 37 years. Walker was an active member of Louisiana Educator’s Association (LEA) and served as treasurer of the Natchitoches chapter. He has been an active member of Prince Hall Masons for over 50 years. He served on various committees and in community groups focused on community improvement.
He used skills he learned from his grandfather to be a painter and carpenter as a hobby. After surviving a major car accident in 1976, his faith in God became the major driving force in his life; in 1994 he became the pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church.
Walker has been married to Barbara Jo’ Mitchell Walker since December 1965. They have six children: Leo Joseph Walker Jr. (Janee), Letitia Jo’ Walker-Johnson (Marti, Sr.), LaLeta Jo’ Walker-Anderson (Derick), LaMer Joseph Walker, Lakesh Jo’ Wallker and LaShunda Jo’ Walker. The Walkers are the grandparents of Alexis Walker, Sydney Walker, Whitney Walker, Martin Luther Johnson, Jr., Kiara Alexandra Walker, Malari Alexis Walker-Williams (Derrick), Madison Mackenzie Johnson, Joseph Arthur Johnson, Derrick Jamont Anderson, II, Domenick Jamont Anderson and Walker Thomas Stone.
They are the great-grandparents of Jazelle Alyse Douglas, Gianna Rose Williams and Phoenix Reign Williams. Former student and program initiator and coordinator Michael Kennedy said, “I’ve always wanted to do something special for Rev. Walker. He did so much for so many of us (school children). He helped us to get scholarships in band at Grambling.” Schools Walker serviced included Allen High, Robeline, Natchez, North Natchitoches (now L.P. Vaughn), Parks, Northwestern State University Jr. High (NSU), NSU Middle Lab, Natchitoches Central High, Marthaville and Provencal. Kennedy also remembers, as a band student, going to First Baptist Church, Amulet, where Walker is a member, to perform various Christmas programs.
While a student at Grambling College, Walker was a part of an era in which Grambling became world-renown in music, especially the marching band during the 1960s. He was asked by one of his music teachers to attend a Kappa Kappa Psi conference meeting along with fellow classmate, Jo Mills. Kappa Kappa Psi, a National Honorary Band Fraternity is a fraternity for college and university band members in the United States.
As a result, Walker was instrumental in establishing the music honors fraternity at Grambling that exists today. He secured numerous scholarships for students. Even before Walker’s musical journey at college, he made educational strides in high school while at Central High School.
“During his speech as valedictorian of his class, I remembered how he started it –with a great thundering sound asking the question, ‘What Time Is It?” said his cousin, Gwen Antee Hardison. People started looking around at each other and their watches to check the time-there were of course no cell phones during that era. After a moment of silence-the pause- he continued with great substance,” Hardison said. “Long before Leo Walker confessed the ministry, he carried the Lord’s messages – we didn’t know then that he was literally carrying the message of Christ,” Hardison said. We just recognized scripture written on beautiful royal blue cardboard in a silvery, shiny, glittery message quoting sacred text. He sold these motto’s, as they were called, for a small fee, door-to-door, to people who lived in the neighborhood. It was the Lord’s hand in his life.” Walker has been on a life’s musical journey for many years with Christ as the center and he as servant leader.