Devoted to public service, Walker took over a bankrupt charitable organization and transformed it into a 100,000 member organization spanning 24 states, and launched its bank, newspaper, and community store to improve the lives of her beleaguered community.
Despite these hardships, Walker maintained an optimistic spirit, using her dynamic personality and savvy business skills to help the struggling black population.
Walker once said, “I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but instead, with a clothes basket almost upon my head. I have come up on the rough side of the mountain.” Her words were not merely figurative.
Walker’s mother, Elizabeth, offered a formidable and self-sacrificing example that helped forge the indomitable spirit of her daughter.
“Little Maggie would also see how the community came together to help the family, and how the church community that she joined about the same time had so many people striving together to improve conditions for all.” The kindness and support the family received from their community reinforced the admirable qualities Walker witnessed at home.
Rogers elaborated further, “It was these principles of faith, family, and community, coupled with hard work, education and sacrifice put into ACTION, that you would see Mrs. Walker turn to throughout the rest of her life.” And it was action indeed that characterized Walker’s industrious approach to her numerous endeavors.
Maggie could have chosen to lead a comfortable life at home since her husband, Armstead Walker Jr., was a successful brick contractor.
Walker joined the local council of the order when she was 14, and eventually rose to the top position of Right Worthy Grand Secretary, which she held until her death in 1934.
Over the years, Walker cultivated her position to foster economic independence in the African-American community.
Securing its future following the 1929 stock market crash, Walker merged the St. Luke Bank with two other African-American banks, forming the Commercial Bank and Trust Company and the Second Street Savings Bank.
Walker traveled extensively to expand the St. Luke organization and to spread news of their good works.
In addition to her other enterprises, Walker founded a weekly newspaper, the St. Luke Herald, and served as its editor-in-chief.
As a social activist, Walker fought for racial and gender equality and promoted increased educational and employment opportunities for the entire black community.
After Walker succumbed to diabetes in 1934, her funeral was a major event in the city.
Schools were let out early, traffic was re-routed, flags were lowered to half-mast, and even the mayor of Richmond stood in attendance, as thousands of people walked in solemn procession to honor the revered community leader.
Maggie Walker remains a superb example of resistance against injustice, and stouthearted generosity in the face of adversity.