Charlie Turner Walker was born on July 24, 1933, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He was the third of four children born to sharecropper parents, Hebert and Priscilla Walker. Charlie was also the great grandchild of formerly enslaved grandparents. When Charlie was 10 years old, his family like so many others participated in the Great Migration, that brought tens of thousands, African Americans, to California seeking refuge and a better life from the brutal South. Charlie’s family settled in San Francisco, California. Like most Black migrants from the deep south, his family was placed in segregated public housing units. Charlie resided at 211 Double Rock Road Building 32-R. Charlie’s father secured a job at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and his mother found work at Laguna Honda Hospital. While 10 years old, Charlie, began his education at Bret Harte Elementary School and later Portola Junior High School
Although he was a bright student, Charlie struggled in conforming to racist school norms and had behavioral issues that made school challenging for him. When Charlie was 14 years old, he decided to end his school career. Charlie forged his birth certificate and entered the US Air Force where he was trained heavily on weaponry and war fighting tactics. Charlie contributes his time in the armed forces as the spark that would later lead him into activism for Black people especially those residing in Southeast section of San Francisco.
Charlie did three years in the US Air force and then returned to San Francisco, shortly before his 18th birthday. Once home, Charlie fathered two children, Charles Jr. and Lorraine. Moved by the vibrant jazz scene going on in the Fillmore, Charlie taught himself how to be a drummer. He played different gigs at different nightclubs in the Fillmore District. It was in one of those nightclubs that Charlie would meet his wife, Annette Banks. Charlie and Annette married on April 16, 1959 and through this union, three daughters were born, Yolanda, Charlette, and Ruedell. The couple would remain happily married until his death.
Approaching his 30’s, Charlie noticed the economic challenges and exclusion of African Americans in San Francisco’s construction industry was facing. Charlie began speaking out about the injustices. By now, Charlie had purchased his first dump truck. As he struggled to get work for his truck and seeing other African American truckers facing the same dilemma and exclusion, Charlie led protests in the 1960s to open public construction jobs for the Black Contractors who were being shunned and passed over for White contractors and White-dominated unions. Charlie Walker and his team of organizers were able to garner huge contracts on the BART Construction.
However, by 1971, Charlie’s major contract with BART was coming to end. Charlie needed a new contract quickly but he had no clue on where he would get it from but that was until an unforeseeable accident occurred with two Standard Oil tankers that collided in the early morning of January 18, 1971, spilling eight hundred thousand gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was the largest oil spill in Bay Area history, an event that would forever change the life of the Hunters Point trucker, Charlie Walker. Charlie obtained a 500,000 contract from the oil firm to supervise the cleanup at Stinson Beach. A beach with roads that was not so friendly to trucks. Charlie was able to secure the contract. Charlie would later write a book called, “America is Still the Place” chronicling his 30 day contract with Standard Oil. Charlie stated, “I had one truck to my name and had to fight a billion dollar oil company who hired me to clean up their mistake, but no one was going to stop me from finishing the job. I made 5 million in 30days.” Charlie’s book would later be adapted into a major film, that bared his name “I’m Charlie Walker,” which was released in 2022.
These two wins would become just the beginning of remarkable life of the larger than life Charlie Walker. For over 60 years, Charlie Would remain on the front line fighting for minority owned small businesses, human rights, children rights, and the rights of those formally incarcerated. Charlie Walker, is a San Francisco icon and legend and he is Mayor Bayview Hunter’s Point Community.”
On January 26, 2023, Charlie passed away peacefully at the Jewish Skilled Nursing Facility after a short bout with dementia that began acquiring in his late 80s. Even with a faded memory, Charlie did things his way. He outlived every prognosis that doctors proclaimed on him. They told his family he wouldn’t make out of October of 2022 and if he did he surely wasn’t going to see 2023. Charlie lived nearly 4 months after receiving this prognosis. Throughout his battle with dementia, Charlie’s spirit and temperament remained same to the very end
Charlie is survived by his wife of 63 years, Annette Walker, his daughters, Charlette Carnegia, Ruedell Walker, and his son, Charles Walker Jr., his granddaughter, Geoffrea Morris, who he assisted in raising, and his remaining grandchildren, Kevin Kelley Jr, Meiko-Ann Bradley, Lyn-Tise Jones, Rubin Sorrell II, Raysean Jones, and Rome Jones, and his 18 great grandchildren.
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