Barbara Wells Walker was born in Port Arthur, TX on May 3, 1926. She was the third of four siblings, two of which survive her today. Her parents, Allen and Julia Morrison Wells met in England when Allen served in World War I, and Julia immigrated to the US, via Ellis Island, as a war bride. Barbara’s father was the manager of the Plaza Hotel in Port Arthur, and the hotel was also the residence of the family. Two days following the birth of the fourth child, when Barbara was only 5, her mother died, and all four children were sent to live with the father’s parents, Sarah and Frank Wells, in Rogers, Texas. Only three years later, the grandmother, Sarah, suffered a stroke, and the children faced yet another change. They continued to live in the same house, but two aunts became their guardians. Dr. Cora V. Wells and Zada Wells had joint custody and reared the children. Cora V. practiced medicine in the family home, and Zada taught school in Dallas at Woodrow Wilson High School.
Barbara was a gifted musician who played at least five instruments. She was a member of the school band, the college orchestra, and a polka band. By age 13, she competed at the state level in homemaking and sewing. Barbara Wells graduated from Rogers High School at age 15 and attended what is now TWU. When Barbara was home from college for summer break in June of 1944, she wrote in her memoirs that she was sitting on the front porch watching the troops go by as she reflected that all her friends were either serving in the war or working. Her diary goes on to say that she felt she needed to do something to help the war effort. Instead she saw an ad in the Dallas Morning News advertising for an elementary teacher in Crandall, Texas. Without telling her aunt, she wrote a letter of application. The first week in September, on a Sunday morning, the phone rang as the family was eating breakfast. It was the Crandall superintendent, Mr. Ray Vanderburg, asking if she could come for an interview. Barbara turned away from the phone and told her Aunt Cora. Dreading the answer, her aunt replied, “Tell him we’ll be there Tuesday morning”. During her interview for her first teaching job at age eighteen, the school board asked how old she was. Her answer was, “I’m old enough”. It’s obvious she was. She taught fifth and sixth grades and met her future husband, Herman Walker. She completed her B.S. degree at East Texas State University, now Texas A& M at Commerce, following the birth of her only child, Carol Walker Powell.
Shortly after Ms. Walker began teaching, she was joined by Shirley and Leroy Wright, fellow professionals who became lifelong friends. Ms. Wright taught third grade and Mr. Wright was the agriculture teacher. Ms. Walker and Ms. Wright, along with Ms. Aline Raynes and Ms. Beulah Workman comprised the elementary faculty for many years. With four energetic women teaching the entire first through fifth grades, those post-war years were productive ones. These women, a mighty team of four, taught generations of Pirates the core subjects and the arts as well. They will long be remembered for the spring operettas they produced, involving anyone who wanted to be on stage. Ms. Walker played the piano and taught the music, and they all directed, chose casts, helped with costumes, and designed the sets. The entire town attended the productions, applauding their young performers and the women who guided them.
During the other seasons of the school year, they worked in the concession stands, sold tickets at ball games, cheered for the Pirates, and planned banquets for various groups. Barbara Walker and her friends provided the children of Crandall many opportunities to become productive, competitive citizens. They understood that education did not end when the school bell rang at the end of the day. They believed that they could only educate the whole child by being with their children at every possible opportunity.
Later in her career, Ms. Walker had a new team of younger co-workers, many of whom she had taught. She stayed current with educational trends, helped to introduce instructional accountability unheard of when she began teaching, and determined her own curricula that resulted in superior reading scores.
Except for a short time teaching in a military prep school in Virginia while Herman served in the U. S. Army, Barbara Walker devoted her considerable talents and energy to the school children of Crandall until her retirement in 1984. The City of Crandall and the surrounding communities were enriched because one teenage girl took a risk by accepting her part of the work of World War II.
Without question, Barbara was an exceptional teacher who became a tremendous inspiration to all who knew her. Not only was Barbara’s love and appreciation for Crandall felt by her students and colleagues then, but it also lives on in the hearts of those who knew her even today.