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*GENERAL JAMES A. WALKER.
General James A. Walker died at his home, in Wytheville, soon after sunrise on Sunday, the 20th day of October, 1901, in the seventieth year of his age.
It has fallen to the lot of but few men in the history of this State within the last half century, to have had a more interesting and eventful career than the subject of this sketch. For he had been one of her foremost soldiers, lawyers and statesmen.
The great lawyer who had so often appeared in the temporal courts to eloquently plead his clients cause, quietly and peacefully fell asleep in death's embrace to appear in the eternal court to plead his own. He was the same brave man in death as in life, and he met the summons which all must answer, with resignation, fortitude and unflinching courage. Not a murmur was heard to escape his lips. He passed away
“Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
He was one of "earth's noblemen,” a man among men, and left a strong impress upon the section in which he lived and died. His attractive, vigorous, manly personality made for him staunch and true friends and bitter enemies. The former he "grappled to his soul with hooks of steel,” his proud imperious nature asked no quarter from the latter.
James A. Walker was born in Augusta county, Virginia, near Fort Defiance, on the 27th day of August, 1832. He sprang from sturdy Scotch-Irish ancestry.
His father and mother were Alexander and Hannah Hinton Walker, both of them living to a ripe old age, beloved and respected by their children and grandchildren. Like so many of the best men in all the avenues of life, young Walker spent his early days on a farm
*Reprinted by permission from VIRGINIA LAW REGISTER, July, 1902, Voi. VIII, No. 3.
In after years, when his lines had fallen in different places, it was his delight to recall the boyish pranks he had indulged in at the old homestead. He attended the country school near his father's home until he was about sixteen years of age, when he left the parental roof, and bent his footsteps toward Lexington, where stood the grim battlements of the Virginia Military Institute. He entered that school as “a plebe” in September, 1818, possessed of a sound mind in a sound body, and at once took high rank with his classmates.
At this time, Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson was professor of tactics and other branches at this famous institution of learning. The writer has often heard General Walker say that when he entered the Institute, Jackson was awkward, uncouth, ungainly, and above all, deeply pious. He was a strict disciplinarian, but notwithstanding this, the subject of much goodnatured ridicule, and many were the pranks played on him by the mischievous young soldiers, Cadet Walker joining in with hearty good will. His class would have graduated on July +, 1852. He stood third therein, being an honor man.
About three months prior to the date above mentioned, the high strung, impulsive cadet took great umbrage at some real or imaginary injustice done him by Professor Jackson in one of the class rooms. The youngster was bold enough to demand an apology from his stouthearted, puritanical professor, which he, of course, refused to give. Whereupon the fiery young student challenged his preceptor to fight a duel. It may not be a matter of history, but it is nevertheless true that Jackson wished to accept this challenge from his pupil, but was dissuaded from doing so by other members of the faculty.
How strange are the vicissitudes of human life! Little did either of these men at that time, one of them a mere boy, dream that their lives would be so closely entwined in fighting in a glorious and a common cause, that both loved so well. And when the great warrior soul of Jackson had been mortally stricken, and he realized it, and his old brigade, the immortal “Stonewall,” needed a new leader, he it was who called on his old pupil to take up the task. How well it was borne, history records. But for this signal breach of discipline on the young man's part he was not permitted to graduate. After the war was over, the Board of Visitors sent him his diploma, which he laughingly said he had lost by wanting to fight, and had finally won by fighting.
In 1854 General Walker commenced the study of law. During this year, and a portion of the succeeding. year, he read and studied in the office of John B. Baldwin, in Staunton. He thus acquired a knowledge of the methods of a great lawyer and advocate, which stood him in good stead ever afterwards.
In the fall of 1855 he entered the law class at the University of Virginia, where he remained for one year only. Mr. Minor then had been at the University about ten years as professor of common and statute law, and had already commenced to lay the foundation for that renown as a teacher of law that has stamped him as one of the greatest moulders of public sentiment for good all over the South. Having completed his law studies at the University, the young student moved to Southwest Virginia to practice. He opened an office at Newbern, Pulaski county, in the fall of 1856. This portion of the State at the time was wild and rugged, remote from railroads, was comparatively unsettled and unknown, and was opening a new field for professional men of all descriptions. No young man, as the sequel shows, took greater advantage of the opportunities thus offered than General Walker. The bar of Pulaski was not a large one, but it had several members who compared favorably with the best lawyers in the State. And then, as was the custom in those days, the strong members of the surrounding bars attended the Pulaski courts. Those members of the bar who were practitioners at the time, and are yet alive, will bear ample testimony to the fact that the young man just from college, in the cases he had, always acquitted himself with credit.
In 1859 he was elected Commonwealth's Attorney of Pulaski county. His age was twenty-seven. Many a young man by filling this office has either buried his hopes for the future as a lawyer, or seized the golden opportunity, and marched on to eminence in his profession. In characteristic style the young