Bishop John Walker (1925-1989) was the first African-American bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and an outspoken opponent of apartheid and other human rights abuses.
Born in Georgia and raised in Detroit, he graduated from Wayne State University in 1951. He was the first African-American to attend and graduate from the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va. After serving St. Mary’s Church under difficult circumstances in a Detroit neighborhood, he became a Master at the prestigious Saint Paul’s School in Concord, N.H..
In 1966 he was brought to Washington National Cathedral by Dean Francis B. Sayre to fill the post of Canon Missioner with a portfolio to reach out to the city’s disadvantaged. In 1971, he was elected Suffragan Bishop of Washington and five years later Bishop Coadjuter to succeed the Right Rev. William F. Creighton. He became the sixth Bishop of Washington on July 1, 1977, a time when the Cathedral was facing a substantial financial crisis which put both its construction and outreach programs in jeopardy. He is acknowledged to have put the fiscal house in order and been responsible for completing the external construction of the Cathedral, although he did not live to be present at its consecration. He died unexpectedly at Georgetown University Hospital on September 30, 1989.