A stickler for grammar, a lover of clever songwriting, and a "natural explainer," Charles Walker has had a vast impact on the University of Mississippi, Oxford and Lafayette County.
Walker is known by many as one of two things: a favorite professor or the attorney and mediator to whom clients and realtors go to when they have difficult problems – or perhaps both. Having taught business law and real estate law courses in the UM School of Business Administration and the Patterson School of Accountancy for 38 years while practicing real estate law in Oxford, there are hundreds of realtors, business and law professionals Walker has taught, mentored or worked alongside.
Among them are George and Annie Haymans of Oxford, Miss., two Ole Miss alumni who have been influenced by Walker both personally and professionally. When they wanted to give back to their alma mater, they chose to establish the Charles H. Walker Real Estate Scholarship Endowment, honoring a man who played a big role in their happiness and success.
George Haymans earned a bachelor's degree in English in 2001 and met Walker in 2003 when Walker helped him purchase his first house. Haymans received a Juris Doctor degree from UM in 2006, the same year his future bride, Annie Powers, received an undergraduate degree in psychology. In 2008 the couple married and Haymans opened his practice in real estate law with guidance from Walker and local attorneys Cal Mayo and Lee Tyner. Annie Haymans later earned another bachelor's degree from UM in education in 2011. The couple has three children, George (5), Worth (4) and Katherine Ann (2).
"I love this work," said Haymans. "Everything I do has something to do with real estate, whether it is consulting with developers or rezoning work. I enjoy helping people find land and discover whether it will work or not. I'll always appreciate those that helped me find my path as I was starting out."
Haymans also appreciates the UM Foundation's quick response to his request to establish the Walker Scholarship for students with an interest in real estate.
"This was the result of a conversation Annie and I had about our estate planning and charitable giving. We wanted to give back to Ole Miss and honor the impact Charles had in our lives and show him how many people he has influenced in his life," he said.
"I didn't know what was possible so I called Wendell Weakley, the president and CEO of the foundation. He explained that we could establish a scholarship fund in Charles' name and that the foundation would help engage others who respect Charles like we do to give to the scholarship," Haymans continued. "Wendell and Tim Noss, the development director for the business school, immediately got things rolling."
"Students comment that Charles was one of their favorite instructors due to his enthusiasm and storytelling to illustrate a point," said Ken Cyree, dean of business administration and the Frank R. Day and Mississippi Bankers Association Chair of Banking. "A scholarship established by former students shows the depth of their connection to him as a professor."
"Charles' dedication to teaching and devotion to the university serve as an inspiration to us all," agreed Bob Robinson, the Michael S. Starnes Professor of Management who began teaching at UM in 1990. "He has always been regarded as an exceptional teacher with his students' interests at heart. This scholarship will be an incentive for recruiting bright young scholars to the real estate program. In this manner, Charles continues to bring excellence to the program long after he has left the classroom."
Walker also encouraged others to devote time to teaching, including Arlen Coyle, a friend and law school classmate of Walker's. Coyle continues to teach business law at UM, just as he did in the 1970s and 80s during his career in U.S. Courts system.
"Charles is a natural 'explainer.' He has the gift of being able to take complex subjects, break them down into their constituent elements, and explain them to students. I cannot envision any other teacher accomplishing as much solid teaching as has Charles during his 38-year career at Ole Miss," said Coyle. "Plus, Charles is the most honest man I have ever known. There are lawyers who give the legal profession a good name. Charles Walker is at the forefront of that group."
Coyle appreciates Walker's work-life balance, and recollects Walker's personal approach from the earliest days of their friendship.
"I first met Charles in 1969 in law school," said Coyle. "It was customary to wear dress trousers, dress shirts and ties. Charles dressed according to hunting seasons: when a season was open, Charles wore hunting trousers, boots, a dress shirt and tie. As soon as classes were over, the shirt and tie came off, a hunting shirt and jacket went on and off he went. Charles also charmed the secretaries into going out to check on the hunting dogs in his car. Charles knows every bird hunting field in Lafayette, Yalobusha, Panola, Marshall and Union counties."
Walker's in-depth knowledge of the landscape of North Mississippi is well-known. Although Walker was born in Morganton, N.C., his roots and love for Mississippi run deep. His mother was born and raised in Kilmichael, Miss., where he visited with his parents most summers and always looked forward to returning. He is also the great-nephew of the late Pat Harrison, Mississippi's valued U.S. Representative from 1911 to 1919 and Senator from 1919 to 1941.
As a struggling student in 1964, Walker met a young woman who inspired him to shape up.
"I was enrolled at Lees-McRae Junior College in North Carolina," said Walker. "I did so poorly in high school I couldn't get in anywhere else. In my third year I caught the mumps and spent six weeks in the hospital. When I went home to recover, I met Mary Mitchell who was getting her nursing degree from Lenoir-Rhyne University. I immediately fell in love and wanted to marry her. Due to poor grades, however, I had received a letter asking me not to return to school. I pleaded for a second chance from the registrar, took 21 hours and made the dean's list. I couldn't have this pretty girl dating a dummy."
Walker transferred to Ole Miss in 1965. He married Mary in 1966 and earned his bachelor's degree in business administration in 1967. He would go on to earn his Juris Doctor degree from UM in 1970.
"There was a professor, W.W. Joor, from Rolling Fork in the Mississippi Delta who taught business law then," said Walker. "I took all three of his classes and got an 'A' in each. I realized I had finally found a subject I enjoyed and a field in which I could excel."
He entered law school that fall. Mary quickly read the writing on the wall.
"We had just married and promised our families we'd move closer to North Carolina after Charles finished his undergraduate degree," Mary said. "Then at Christmas, Charles said he thought he might want to go to law school. It wasn't long before I realized we weren't leaving."
The draw to teaching was instilled early. While in law school, he was invited to substitute teach for Joor.
"Mr. Joor and I got to be good buddies, and he would ask me to substitute teach for him," said Walker. "I got to teach Archie Manning, Jim Poole and others sitting in for Joor."
By 1977, Walker was offered a full-time faculty position as a professor in the business school. Mary Walker referred to teaching as "his true gift." She should know; beginning in 2000 when Walker's vision began deteriorating, Mary would accompany him to class to help take roll and be his eyes in the classroom. "I watched how the students responded to the way Charles brought real life into the classroom. He even took them to the courthouse to teach them how to check titles."
"I tried to teach practical information," Walker explained. "For example, let's say we hear a forest fire in California has burned forty thousand acres. To put this in perspective for the class, I'd explain that Lafayette County is roughly twenty miles square, or roughly four hundred fifty thousand acres. I would draw Lafayette County up on the board and show them it is just below nine percent of Lafayette County. It sounds terrible, but many people have no concept of how large or small an acre of land is."
Walker was regarded as a talented and favorite teacher during his career, earning high ratings from students during end of semester evaluations. Walker also directed the Professional Land Management (formerly Petroleum Land Management) program for 25 years, served as director of the long-range planning committee in the 1980s and was an affirmative action officer. In 1984 he was awarded tenure and later served from 1987 to 1997 as the public address announcer for football games in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
The Walkers have three children, Caroline (Todd) Underwood and Mary Beth (John) Cantrell of Tupelo and Jonathan Walker (Sally Kate) of Oxford. They also enjoy their six grandchildren.
Haymans, who also now teaches as an adjunct in the business school, is eager to encourage others to help grow the Charles H. Walker Real Estate Scholarship Endowment.
"I'm often in court when someone hears I practice in Oxford. They'll come tell me a story about having Charles in school or that he helped them attain their first job. He helped to train judges and attorneys around the state. He's had a big impact."
Mostly, Haymans wants Walker to know the weight of his influence. "He is one of the few lawyers who can relieve tensions among parties without threatening, without ego. There is no reason to go to court with Charles Walker involved," said Haymans. "The biggest lessons I've learned from Charles are humility and the importance of living by my Christian values. He is very self-deprecating even when it is not his obligation.
"I'm so thankful Charles was around when I was starting out. He took time to talk with me when I asked his advice, when a lot of lawyers wouldn't take your call let alone share their secrets on how they conduct business," he added. "Charles is always very open to helping young people become better lawyers and more importantly, better people."
Individuals and organizations interested in making a gift to the Charles H. Walker Real Estate Scholarship Endowment can send a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; contact Tim Noss at 662-915-5932 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.