By Jennifer A. Cramer
The Center was honored to take part in the H. Jesse Walker Honorary Symposium and 14th Annual Evelyn Pruitt Lecture held on campus on January 15, 2016, to honor LSU Boyd Professor H. Jesse Walker who passed away in May of 2015 at the age of 93 after over 60 years at LSU (click here for a bio).
Jesse Walker was, in addition to being renowned in the field of geography, a great friend of LSU Libraries. In particular, he was quite supportive of oral history. Not only did he volunteer for the Center, but he also contributed his own story.
Jesse was an inspiration to many. As his interviewer and his friend, I’m inspired by the way that his life’s work was part of who he was. He had a twinkle in his eye and he made each chapter of his life an adventure, whether it was living in a tent in Morro Bay, California, during the Great Depression and helping support his family even as a boy; flying transport planes as a U.S. Marine Aviator in the Pacific Theater during WWII; driving a pick up truck for Professor Carl Sauer on explorations through Mexico; helping lay the foundation for a geography program at Georgia State University; meeting his wife Rita and starting a family; working for the U.S. Office of Naval Research; embarking on his career in geography at LSU; helping expand the Geography and Anthropology program during his time here; and conducting research in coastal geography and traveling all over the globe as an ambassador of his field.
The campus is surely an emptier place in Jesse’s absence, but knowing him was a gift and I feel luckier for having had that pleasure. And thanks to his oral history contributions, there are many sessions of his stories housed at the Williams Center that are available through LSU Libraries.
And on that note, I’d like to share a story from Jess. In this clip, he had just finished talking about his service in WWII in the Pacific and how he had returned to California to UCLA and then UC Berkeley to finish the undergraduate career he had started before the war. Here, he recounts his love of traveling and how his adventure driving across Mexico with Berkeley Geography Professor Carl Sauer helped lead Jesse on his career path.