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Changemakers: Former Wichitan, Ronald Walters left mark on civil rights movement

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 10:32 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - An internationally known scholar and leader, Dr. Ronald Walters long list of achievements started in his home town of Wichita, where as president of the local youth chapter of the NAACP he helped organize one of the country’s first lunch-counter sit-ins to protest segregation, The Dockum Drug-Store Sit in.

“He trained them to sit-in, folks how to behave, not to talk back to people if they got things thrown at them,” said Dr. Walters’ widow, Patricia Turner Walters.

Patricia said now she wants to make sure people know that the sit-in was only the beginning.

“My whole life has been driven by continuing Ron’s legacy,” said Patricia. " Ron was a brilliant educator, he taught at many prestigious universities around the country. Ron had the elite ability to interact with presidents of the United States.”

Dr. Walters spent his career traveling the globe speaking as an expert on race and black politics, he also wrote 12 books.

His brother, Kevin Walters said his nature as a leader came in part how he grew up.

“He came up in this environment of firsts, and so when he would see injustices, nature would kick in,” said Kevin. “He was already programmed to go out there and try to do the best that he could do, to see his people be the best they could be.”

The City of Wichita recently opened up a new library and named it after Dr. Walters. Wichita’s Vice Mayor, Brandon Johnson said naming the library was an easy decision.

“He really made a big impact and this is one the naming a library after a gentleman like that, could be an inspiration to thousands of young people here in the city that try to follow his footsteps, to be bold and use their voice and speak up, and make those intelligent decisions that would want a president asking for your advise. That’s a really big deal,” said Johnson.

Johnson said he hopes Wichitans learn about the city’s rich history and people.

“Talk to some of the elders here who know some of those folks,” said Johnson. " Learn from them and their experiences.”

Dr. Walters died in 2010 from lung cancer at 72.

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