Archives On The Air 211: Fighting "Jim Crow" In Hollywood—Bill Walker Papers

Aug 12, 2020

Bill Walker on the set of "Wait 'Til the Sun Shines, Nellie," ca 1952. Bill Walker Photo File, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Credit American Heritage Center

Bill Walker was a black actor best remembered for his role as Reverend Sykes in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird.

At the start of his acting career in 1946 he was relegated to roles as domestic servants.

When elected to the Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild in 1952, he and Guild president Ronald Reagan reported on Hollywood's bias. 

No significant improvement occurred, so Walker continued to lobby.

He joined with the NAACP in 1963 to add a non-discrimination clause to the Guild's theatrical agreement.

In 1972 the Guild formed the Ethnic Minorities Committee and Walker became a founding board member.

Learn more about Bill Walker in his papers at UW's American Heritage Center.

Bill Walker with Richard Chamberlain in the television series "Dr. Kildare" which aired from 1961 to 1966. Bill Walker Photo File, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Credit American Heritage Center