The Life and Times of Ann B. Walker
The pioneering journalist looks back on a life of achievement and breaking down barriers.
Sitting in her Franklin Park home on a crisp fall afternoon, retired journalist and community activist Ann B. Walker reflects on a career that made her a pillar of the African American community. It has been filled with historic and unexpected turns, none more surprising than when she got a call from the White House.
Walker says she had just returned from a trip to Africa in 1980 when her husband, Linwood, told her that President Jimmy Carter’s office called and asked her to interview for a position. She had no idea why.
Then she remembered an interview she conducted with Carter in Columbus when he was running for president. Reporting for WLWC-TV4 (now WCMH NBC4), Walker questioned him about issues he’d raised two years earlier at the Poor People’s Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas, which she attended. She asked him to elaborate on those topics during his Columbus visit, and she says she must have made an impression.
Hence, Walker became the first Black woman from Columbus to receive a White House appointment. As media director of the Community Services Agency, she oversaw communications for the agency that partners with state and local governments to reduce poverty.
From working for a president to interviewing Martin Luther King Jr. in the late 1950s, Walker has experienced many high points and has broken gender and racial barriers along the way. She was the first female broadcaster to cover the Ohio legislature, the first Black woman to serve on the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s board and the first woman in television news management in Central Ohio during her stint at WLWC.
Her accomplishments have led to her induction into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame, a spot on the Long Street Cultural Wall and a plaza named in her honor in the forthcoming Adelphi Quarter development in the King-Lincoln District.
Despite all the accolades, Walker stumbled into her career. “If I tell the truth, people will be disappointed,” the 97-year-old says with a laugh.
A Columbus native and East High School alumna, her entrée into journalism came in 1949, when her friend Russell Jackson invited her to write columns for the Ohio Sentinel, one of Columbus’ first Black newspapers. Walker went on to join WVKO 1580 AM as an on-air personality and news director, and later produced documentaries and anchored talk shows at WLWC. In 1974, while serving on the zoo’s board, she began organizing trips to Africa for zoo patrons, voyages that continued after her retirement from journalism. Her home is now filled with memorabilia and African art.
Walker cites paving the way for others as her greatest accomplishment. In 2004, she helped establish the Linwood B. Walker Scholarship in honor of her late husband. She also started an internship program at Channel 4 to help students explore careers in broadcasting. Among the professionals Walker has mentored over the years is Nana Watson, president of the Columbus NAACP, who has emulated Walker in helping African Americans realize their potential. “She shares of her time and her knowledge,” Watson says. “She’s a compassionate, humble person.”
Walker says her lifelong mission has been to open the door for at least one other person. “But I was able to open it for many more, because once they saw the possibilities, they were willing to put forth the effort.”
Correction: This story has been edited to reflect that Walker's home is in Franklin Park.