William Walker

Background

William Walker enlisted in the US Army in Chicago, Illinois, his home town. He was stationed at Camp Van Dorn in Centreville, MS with the 364th infantry. Racial tensions were high because of the large number of black soldiers in the town, many of whom were from the North. The military police at the Camp were virtually all white.

On May 29, 1943, Walker was shot and killed by Wilkinson County Sheriff Richard Whitaker, who claimed Walker had tried to take his gun from him. News accounts report that on the day in question Walker had been clubbed by military police because he was missing a button on his uniform. When Walker resisted the beating, a sergeant ordered the military police to shoot, whereupon Walker attempted to flee. He was then shot in the back by Sheriff Whitaker. Walker’s slaying precipitated serious disturbances in Centreville, as a result of which Governor Paul B. Johnson requested that the military remove the 364th infantry from the state.

Two years after Whitaker killed Walker, one of his men shot and killed Tom Jones.

Legal Status

Wilkinson County Sheriff Richard Whitaker was never charged in connection with the killing.