WASHINGTON (AP)—Ronald W. Walters, a longtime political analyst and scholar at Howard University and the University of Maryland who was a leading expert on race and politics, has died. He was 72. His weekly column appeared in New Pittsburgh Courier and hundreds of other Black newspapers across the country.
Walters died Sept. 10 after an illness, University of Maryland spokesman Lee Tune said Saturday. He had been suffering from lung cancer. Arrangements are attached at end of story.
Walters spent 25 years at Howard before becoming director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland. He wrote numerous books and more than 100 articles. University of Maryland Law Professor Georgia Sorenson said Walters was one of the most thoughtful and independent scholars. He followed politics closely and was thrilled to see President Barack Obama’s election, she said.
“He felt it was very important to continue to focus on African-Americans” in politics, Sorenson said. “He didn’t think it was done yet. …This was really his deepest passion.”
In 1984, Walters served as a deputy campaign manager for Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential bid. He consulted again on Jackson’s second campaign in 1988 and advised members of Congress over the years, said California Rep. Barbara Lee, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
On Saturday, Lee called Walters a “scholarly giant” and a “man whose academic record and analytical insights have contributed to America’s understanding of the intersection of race, politics and policy.”
Former students said Walters mentored hundreds of students, even as a senior scholar.
Tamara Wilds-Lawson, who studied under Walters and consulted with him for the Democratic National Committee, said Walters was a humble activist with a wide reach behind the scenes.
“Anything of significance that happened in Black politics essentially over the last 30 years, he either had a critical role in organizing, had a critical role in assessing it or had a critical role in bringing folks together,” she said.
Walters was a frequent commentator. He spoke up recently when Glenn Beck staged a rally Aug. 28 at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Beck’s rally was “taking a slap at the movement,” Walters told the Afro-American Newspapers. “They really want to dishonor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington in 1963 to give it a conservative spin,” he said.
Walters was born in Wichita, Kan., in 1938 but spent most of his professional life in the Washington area after earning his master’s degree and Ph.D in international studies from American University.