William “Bill” Walker, was a pioneering and influential muralist, artist, and humanitarian, and co-founder of the Chicago Mural Group, later known as Chicago Public Art Group.
Walker was regarded as perhaps the nation’s foremost community-based muralist and the progenitor of the contemporary mural movement, which was launched on the South Side of Chicago at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue in 1967 with the Wall of Respect, instigated by Walker and created by him and 12 other African-American artists and photographers belonging to the Visual Art Workshop of Organization for Black American Culture. The landmark mural—“unauthorized” in the sense that it drew local community but not city or institutional support–depicted 50 notable black figures in many fields, from Marcus Garvey to H. Rap Brown, from Cassius Clay to John Coltrane, from Sidney Poitier to Stokely Carmichael, from Gwendolyn Brooks to Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad (whose image Walker painted). OBAC co-founder and mural creator Jeff Donaldson called it “a rallying point for revolutionary rhetoric and calls to action, and a national symbol of the heroic black struggle for liberation in America.”
“He steadfastly refused to separate the black struggle from that of humankind. He didn’t engage in any kind of ‘us versus them’ rhetoric…The ‘us versus them’ that he showed was black people and their allies of various colors against the forces of evil.”John Pitman Weber