NASHVILLE, Tenn. For only the second time in its history, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools presented the prestigious Charter Schools Lifetime Achievement Award, this time to Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, former chief of staff to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The award ceremony took place today at the 16th Annual National Charter School Conferencein Nashville.
Prior to Dr. Walker, President Bill Clinton received the award in 2011.
"Dr. Walkers lifetime dedication to ensuring all children have access to high-quality school choices is inspiring," said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "We thank Dr. Walker for his example and his work; it is because of people like him that our movement has grown to serve 3 million students. We are honored to give him this Lifetime Achievement award."
The Charter Schools Lifetime Achievement Award is granted to extraordinary individuals who devote tireless passion in support of charter schools, and dedicate their lives to accomplishing significant results for the charter school movement. This honor is awarded to contributors who have had a lasting and fundamental impact on, not only charter schools, but the education system as a whole. The awardee is someone who has demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to the cause, and whose numerous achievements have been acknowledged by charter school advocates, their professional peers, and the general public.
Dr. Walker is the former chief of staff to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also served as executive director of the Southern Leadership Conference, and from 1970-1980 as special assistant for urban affairs to New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. Walker was essential to the civil rights movement, working as the first full-time executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, and the 1963 protests in Birmingham, Ala., which led to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. His pioneering work extended beyond the borders of the United States as Walker worked to fight apartheid in South Africa by organizing the International Freedom Mobilization in 1978, and was later inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. Serving 37 years as pastor of Harlems Canaan Baptist Church of Christ (1967-2004), he was named Pastor Emeritus in 2004, and remains an integral part of the community.
His concern for educational excellence as a continuation of his civil rights activism led him to advocate for a charter school in the Harlem community, where he co-founded the Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem, the first charter school in New York approved by the State University of New York.
Yesterday, the National Alliance also inducted three charter school advocates Bill Kurtz, Dr. Rod Paige and Kim Smith to its Hall of Fame.