A quiet man who does not ordinarily seek public recognition was the focus of the City Council's attention Tuesday night, as three different awards were presented to Robert H. "Bobby" Walker, the founder of Walker Die Casting, now one of Lewisburg's largest employers.
"My definition of a hero is someone who consistently helps people," said Mayor Jim Bingham who started the ceremony. "A superhero is someone who does that over a lifetime. We are going to honor someone who has been a pillar of the community, a benevolent person the community owes a great debt to. He has accomplished extraordinary things for the community of Lewisburg."
Bingham turned the meeting over to State Sen. Jim Tracy, who said, "Mr. Walker has been very influential in business, very successful, but he never forgets where his roots are. It's really an honor to do this."
Tracy presented Walker with certificate from Gov. Bill Haslam, appointing Walker a Colonel Aide de Camp. Such a certificate may only be requested by an elected official, for a Tennessee citizen who has made an outstanding achievement.
Next to speak was State Rep. Billy Spivey, who has an even closer connection to Walker because he works at Walker Die Casting, as did his father, who recently retired after 35 years with the company.
"I rarely get an opportunity to try to speak to something as meaningful as this," Spivey said. He read a proclamation, signed by Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, and Marshall County's legislators, Spivey and Tracy.
The proclamation stated Walker's success story began after military service in World War II and the Korean Conflict. In 1958 he started his business in the basement of a hardware store on the square in Lewisburg (where the Bank of America is now), with three employees. In 1965 Walker Die Casting moved to the Industrial Park, where it now occupies an 800,000 square foot building and employs 600 people. Although he is officially retired, with the day-to-day running of the company handed over to sons John, Sam, and Will, Bobby Walker goes to the business every day, and remains actively involved.
Another side of Bobby Walker, Spivey said, that some people don't know, is his love of music. He sings in the First United Methodist Church choir, and plays in the Boys Down the Road band. The front lobby of Walker Die Casting's office building is turned over to a jam session for local musicians every Tuesday evening.
The proclamation Spivey was reading especially recognized Walker for a lifetime of benevolence and public service, stating he epitomized the ideal businessman, who provided a vital economic engine.
The third and last award for Walker was a Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the mayor, City Council, and the Industrial Development Board, led by Eddie Wiles.
"He's a true friend to Lewisburg," said Bingham. "We wish him all the best, with extreme honor and love."
Walker was visibly moved when he stepped to the podium to thank everyone for the special honors he had received.
"Do something for somebody," he said. "I learned that in Sunday school 80 years ago, and I've been doing it ever since."
"He's probably one of the most honorable men I've met and become a friend of in my 45 years in Marshall County," said County Commissioner Tom Sumners the next day. "He started from scratch and has become one of the most respected businessmen in Tennessee and the nation.
"He's a hometown person who's made a lot of families in this community have a place to work, raise their families, and get an education," Sumners continued. "He'll make a gift (to someone in need) and nobody knows where it came from."
Sumners and Walker serve together on the Lewisburg Board of Zoning Appeals, and, according to Sumners, Walker is a valuable member of this body, who gives good and sound judgments.