Theresa Walker’s life, activism remembered
Jennifer Ffrench-Parker | , Ken Watts | 10/25/2013, 6 a.m.
The homegoing service for longtime South DeKalb resident Theresa Walker was scheduled to take place Oct. 25 at Saint Philip AME Church in Atlanta.
Walker, a retired businesswoman and community activist, died Oct. 18 at her Stone Mountain home after a long battle with cancer.
She was 68.
For many years, Walker co-owned Paragon Productions with her husband, the late DeKalb Commissioner Lou Walker, who was also an actor and business owner. He died in 2004.
Walker was born Theresa Sheridan on March 19, 1945, in Chicago and raised in Gary, Ind. She graduated from Tolleston High School and attended Ball State University in Indiana.
She worked for eight years as an administrative assistant for the Gary Public School System before meeting and marrying Lou Walker, a business owner and former Chicago police detective. She had one son from a previous marriage and Lou Walker had three children, also from a previous marriage. The family relocated to metro Atlanta in 1976, where she started her career in public relations at Six Flags Over Georgia.
She went on to work for the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Cohn & Wolfe Public Relations, where she worked on campaigns for Maxwell House and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
In the mid-’80s, the Walkers became entrepreneurs, starting Paragon Productions, a public relations and marketing firm that became prominent in the metro Atlanta business and political communities. In 1997, the Walkers co-founded the Georgia Black Chamber of Commerce, a group providing advocacy for minority-owned businesses. Theresa Walker retired as its executive director in 2009.
She worked with DeKalb County to open the Lou Walker Senior Center in 2005 on Panola Road, named in her husband’s honor, and was organizer of the DeKalb Senior of the Year Awards banquet, an annual fundraiser for the center. She organized her last one on May 18.
Over the summer, she worked with DeKalb Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton to organize Olympic gold-medal gymnast Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas’ visit to speak to the 2013 Youth Empowerment Breakfast on Aug. 10 at the Evergreen Conference Center in Stone Mountain Park.
DeKalb interim CEO Lee May and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson were among political leaders honoring Walker and her legacy this week.
“DeKalb is a better place thanks to her,” May said.
Johnson said that Walker was her husband’s greatest supporter and continued his legacy.
“I know Lou was very proud of her and now she joins him once again,” Johnson said.
“We all owe Theresa Walker a debt of gratitude for making our community a better place.”
Morris Williams, DeKalb County’s deputy chief operating officer, said Walker will be missed for her knowledge of the community and its people.
“She was great at community outreach,” he said.
“She knew the community and the people knew her. She was a patient person of action. She had patience but she was going to get some action.”
Williams said he met Walker in 1998 while working on the first Candler Road Revitalization Program. The Walkers’ firm was hired by then-CEO Liane Levetan’s administration to do community outreach.
He said he and Theresa Walker hit it off right away, while it took a minute for her husband to warm up to him.
“We became very close,” he said, “and after she met my daughter, we became family friends.”
Williams said that he lost his mother, Frances, in 2004, within 30 days of Lou Walker’s death, and he and Walker commiserated.
“She helped me deal with it,” he said. “She was someone I could talk to.”
Walker’s homegoing service takes place at 2 p.m. The Rev. Bernice Madden of Saint Philip AME will deliver the eulogy.
The church is at 240 Candler Road, at the intersection of Memorial Drive.
Grissom-Clark Funeral Home in Atlanta is in charge of arrangements.