WARNER ROBINS — Fellowship Bible Baptist Church pastor Willie Reid said whatever caused Mayor Donald S. Walker to take his own life earlier this week is something only God and Walker himself may know.
Reid told mourners at Friday’s funeral about a Donald Walker who had given himself to the Lord, which he said meant Walker still received favor from such a higher being. The 60-year-old Walker died Monday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
“Your children don’t always please you in what they do, but they’re still your children,” Reid said. “The Lord may not be pleased with what Donald did, but he’s still his child. That’s what the bible says.”
The audience of about a thousand mourners in the Homer J. Walker Jr. Civic Center included Walker’s family. His wife Patricia, daughter Stephanie, and brothers Jay and Tommy sat directly in front of the casket, surrounded by other relatives. Gov. Sonny Perdue, U.S. Rep Jim Marshall and other elected officials mixed in with city workers and everyday residents, The mayor’s longtime secretary, Faye Coulter, sat at the highest perch in the auditorium.
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Reid, Bishop Jeff Poole, Jimmy Asbell and former State Rep. Larry Walker spoke of Donald Walker’s love for the city, and how that should be what people best remember about him.
“Hold your head high for your man, and our man,” Larry Walker said, directing his words to Patricia Walker. “A man who will be remembered not for the immediate past, not for the last few days, but for a lifetime of achievement.”
People want to know what led to Monday’s events, Reid said, but they may never find out.
“The secret to all things belongs to God,” Reid said. “While they’re trying to figure out what happened, we’ll never know. What we do know is the secret things belong to God. We don’t know what happened between Donald and God that day. We know he didn’t just love black people and white people. He loved all people. We hate his life came to an end on Monday, but, Lord, we’re leaving all the secret things to you.”
In his opening prayer, Asbell spoke about Donald Walker’s achievements in Warner Robins, but also mentioned the apparent suicide.
“There is so much we just don’t know,” he said. “There may be questions, but let there be no question that you are here, that you are our strength and it is from you where our strength comes ... when our ability to make sense of the world is shaken down to the foundation and is found wanting, we know you are always there.
“We live in a wonderful place and part of that wonder was created by this man, Donald Walker. Truth is too many people in our world are too self absorbed to invest in anybody but themselves. Let his example inspire us and others to invest in the betterment of our community and our world.”
Immediately following the service, Donald Walker’s casket was carried out of the civic center, which he fought to have renamed for his father, and taken through the streets in a hearse to the site of his final resting place at Magnolia Park. Along the way, hints of what Warner Robins had become during Walker’s tenure were obvious, including the sprawling Macon State University campus that came to being after a 72-acre gift to the school by the city council.
People lined the procession route in packs to snap a shot with their cameraphones as the long line of cars made its way down Watson Boulevard. In front of the Warner Robins Chamber of Commerce building, two fire trucks were used to hoist a large American flag over the street. At that point, a grey horse, saddled up with tan cowboy boots hanging off each side, joined the procession behind the hearse carrying Walker’s body, continuing to the Magnolia Park family plot where he was laid to rest.
“Farewell this say-what-he-means-and-means-what-he-says, straight-shooting, potty-talking, from the old political school man,” Larry Walker said. “A man, if he told you something, you could take it to the bank. A man who’s probably up there in heaven today trying get God to help him figure out how to annex Macon into Warner Robins.”
To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.
Continuous updates of the funeral of Warner Robins Mayor Donald S. Walker at the Homer J. Walker Jr. Civic Center.
2:58 - Pall bearers and an honor guard from the city's police and fire departments carry Walker's coffin out of the civic center to a waiting hearse while the choir sings an inspirational hymn.
2:54 - The choir is singing a recessional song, marking the end of the funeral.
2:51 - The Fellowship Bible Baptist Church Choir leads those in attendance in the hymnal "Amazing Grace". Reid said the song was Walker's favorite.
2:49 - Reid leads a prayer.
2:48 - Addressing Walker's wife and family, Reid said: "You know you have a brother in this family ... I just came out a little darker."
2:45 - At the end of an analogy comparing Walker's body and soul to a tax bill from the city: "Today we are tossing the envelope, but God has the letter."
2:40 - Reid's response to the question of why Walker may have taken his own life was Deut. 29:29 - "The secret things belong to the Lord ..."
2:38 - Pastor Willie Reid, a close friend of Walker's, has taken the stage to deliver the eulogy.
2:33 - Fellowship Bible Baptist Church Choir has taken the stage to sing, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken".
2:32 - Larry Walker, on Mayor Walker: "A man who is probably up in heaven today trying to get help annexing Macon into Warner Robins."
2:29 - Larry Walker: "If Warner Robins was in your arena, Donald Walker was in the arena with you." He said the quote while emphasizing the mayor's devotion to city employees.
2:25 - Former State Rep. Larry Walker is now taking the podium. Walker was not related to the mayor, but the two were longtime close friends.
2:24 - Poole made a reference to wishing Walker had annexed where Poole lives in Kathleen, drawing a laugh. "I'm just trying to lighten it up a little bit, because the mayor liked to laugh," Poole said.
2:23 - Poole: "We've been blessed in Warner Robins. We've been blessed by his leadership."
2:19 - Poole draws a laugh talking about playing the Northside High School card to get in with the mayor, a 1967 graduate of Northside. Poole's quote: "I'm sorry to all the (Warner Robins High) Demons out there, but the Eagle flies on Friday."
2:15 - Bishop Jeff Poole is now making remarks at the podium. He mentioned that Walker's wife Patricia said she wanted "long church", so he needed to hurry up and get out of the way for Pastor Willie Reid, who is delivering the eulogy.
2:09 - With a nod toward Walker's patriotism and military service, Dr. Jimmy Asbell led the assembled crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. He followed it with a mournful prayer. Murmured amens could be heard throughout.
2:03 - The funeral has begun with a lengthy scripture reading, with a special focus on Psalm 23.
1:54 - The audience has filled most of the middle three sections of the civic center and has become somewhat hushed as the beginning of the funeral nears.
1:48 - Gov. Sonny Perdue is in attendance.
1:45 - Officials from McCullough Funeral Home are now closing Mayor Walker's casket. The funeral will begin in about 15 minutes with a processional led by Bishop Jeff Poole.
1:30 - Walker family members and dignitaries - such as Maj. Gen. Polly Peyer, U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga., and State Sen. Cecil Staton - are gathering inside City Hall in preparation to enter the civic center for the funeral.
1:24 - The civic center is almost half filled, with more than a half-hour remaining until the end of the viewing.
1:18 - A Warner Robins public works worker is handing out bottles of water to the crowd. The move is appropriate, considering that some in the audience have already been here for more than 90 minutes.
1:10 - The mayor's coffin is open and draped with American flag, befitting his status as a military veteran. The coffin is flanked by an honor guard representing the city's police and fire departments.
12:59 - One of the five primary sections of the civic center auditorium is reserved for city employees, and that section is already more than one-third full.
12:50 - The crowd is beginning to build in the civic center. The motorcade processional for after the funeral is also lining up on the west side of the building and will include a pair of Warner Robins Fire Department ladder trucks and a large number of police vehicles, as well as the vehicles of family and mourners who will attend the graveside service at Magnolia Park Cemetery.
12:40 - A slideshow of personal and professional photos of Mayor Walker is being shown on a screen onstage. The photos cover his entire life, including military, family and his time as mayor.
12:25 p.m. - About 100 mourners have filed in during the viewing, with many already taking seats in the auditorium. The civic center seats about 1,400, and a full house is expected.
11:15 - With the flashing lights of police cars leading the way, a dark hearse carrying the body of Warner Robins Mayor Donald Walker arrived at the Homer J. Walker Civic Center.
Several Warner Robins police officers flanked the casket and saluted as members of the honor guard removed the flag-draped coffin from the back of the vehicle and carried into the auditorium for the public viewing beginning at noon.
11 a.m. - The order of service for the 2 p.m. funeral includes a eulogy by Pastor Willie Reid and scripture readings and remarks by Bishop Jeff Poole. Former State Representative Larry Walker will share personal remarks. Dr. Jimmy Asbell will lead the pledge of allegiance and the Fellowship Bible Baptist Church Choir will sing the hymns "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "Amazing Grace." Local musician Sebie Lacey will sing "The Lord's Prayer" following the processional into the building.
The interment will follow at Magnolia Park Cemetery with a large convoy of city vehicles and a riderless horse which will join in behind the hearse at the Warner Robins Chamber of Commerce building during the procession on Watson Boulevard.