Family reflects on grandfather’s legacy after 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre

From left to right: Yolanda Walker Simmons and Patricia Walker Bearden, the granddaughters of Alex Walker, a Black man who was convicted of killing, a white police officer, during the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre. The sisters discuss the backstory on “Closer Look.” ( Photo courtesy of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights)

Patricia Walker Bearden and Yolanda Walker Simmons can still recall the passed-down stories of their late grandfather, Alex Wesley Walker. 

The sisters said on the night of the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre, their grandfather, who worked as a bellman at the Kimball House Hotel in Atlanta, rushed home to his house located in Brownsville, a middle-class Black neighborhood in south Atlanta.

A white mob pursued him, and he had to protect his family and pregnant wife.

“He was unjustly identified as the person who shot an officer in Atlanta the night that the 10,000 whites came through their community,” explained Walker Simmons.

The Walker sisters were guests on Monday’s edition of “Closer Look” and further told show host Rose Scott that their grandfather was easily identifiable because he was dressed in uniform.

During the conversation, they discussed the backstory of the massacre and why their grandfather struggled for the rest of his life, even after winning an appeal for his life sentence conviction.

The sisters also talked about the importance of history being taught in schools and why they feel everyone should strive to tell their family story.

EDITORS NOTE: On Sept. 24, WABE TV will air (re)Defining History: Uncovering The 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre. The half-hour documentary, narrated by Georgia State University professor and historian Dr. Maurice Hobson, explores the untold story behind the massacre, what led to the eruption of violence, and how it strengthened resilience within the Black community.