News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 24, 2009

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: Take a historic look at Guy Morrison Walker

By Mike McCormick

TERRE HAUTE — During 1909 — 100 years ago — former Terre Haute resident Guy Morrison Walker made national headlines.

An 1890 graduate of DePauw University, Walker was on President William Howard Taft’s short list of candidates to succeed William Woodville Rockhill as U.S. Minister to China, a position then titled, “Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.”

Born Jan. 24, 1870 in Fort Wayne, Guy was the eldest of the Rev. Wilbur Fisk and Mary Florence (Morrison) Walker’s children. Rev. Walker had been a Methodist missionary in China for 33 years.

In 1873, while still an infant, Guy went to Beijing with his parents, spending about ten years. During those years, he used both Chinese and English as primary languages. He returned to the U.S. to attend DePauw, where his father had earned a degree in 1868.

He maintained his interest in Chinese politics and economics and put his expertise to good use.

Not only was Guy an outstanding student and campus leader at the Greencastle college but he helped organize, and was captain of, the 1889 DePauw football team, arguably the school’s first.

Following college graduation, which included a L.L.B., Walker moved to Terre Haute, was admitted to the Vigo and Indiana bars and, on Dec. 15, 1891, wed Minnie L. Royse of 517 N. Seventh St., who also received a degree from DePauw in 1890.

Minnie was a daughter of prominent Terre Haute lawyer Isaac Henry Clay Royse.

In 1892, Walker founded the Terre Haute Trust Co., in a storefront near the southwest corner of Sixth and Ohio streets.

The financial institution grew and, in 1907-08, it erected an eight-story skyscraper — Terre Haute first — at the southeast corner of Seventh and Wabash. That historic structure survives after acquisitions by Merchants National Bank of Terre Haute and Old National Corp.

The Walkers relocated to Toledo in 1897, where Guy founded the Security Trust Co. of Toledo. He then moved to New York City, ostensibly to open a law office at 15 Wall Street. The Walkers resided at 301 W. 106th St. and raised two sons, Merle and Ray.

I.H.C. Royse became the chief executive officer of Terre Haute Trust Co. after Walker’s departure.

After arriving in New York, Walker was contacted by Leslie’s Weekly to serve as editor of its China section on matters related to the Boxer rebellion. President William McKinley made Guy his personal adviser and offered him a commission in the U.S. Army on the staff of Gen. Adna R. Chaffee in China. Walker politely declined.

When Walker was able to devote nearly full-time to his law practice, he became general counsel for the Everett-Moore Syndicate Railroad Co., the Columbus, Delaware and Marion Railroad and the Pittsburgh Railroad & Light Co. He also took part in reorganizing the Knickerbocker Trust Co.

Walker quickly established a reputation as a specialist in railroad and traction company law and was author of “Railroads and Wages” (1902), “The Why and How of Interurban Railways” (1904), “Record of Phi Kappa Psi” (1906) and “The Spirit of Indiana” (1907).

He also kept abreast of Asian affairs, writing articles in academic journals and popular periodicals on the subject. It does not appear as if the diplomatic job was tendered to Walker. It if was, he refused it. William James Calhoun of Illinois accepted the post.

A man of varied interests, Walker lived much of business life in New York City, reorganizing businesses and public utilities. In about 1912, he established a second home in Mississippi, one of the five states where he practiced law.

Less than a year ago, his namesake. grandson, Guy Morrison “Binx” Walker, died in Ocean Springs, Miss. Binx Walker’s obituary contended that he was a member of the sixth generation of his family to attend DePauw. Loyalty to the family alma mater was a part of the Walkers DNA.

Among the elder Walker’s many gifts to his alma mater were the endowment of the Walker Horizon Lectureship and the Walker Cup, presented annually to the outstanding member of the graduating class.

Walker wrote the poem, “The Spirit of Old DePauw” and endowed and presented a memorial plaque honoring Joseph Carhart, professor of elocution and oratory. Carhart brought national fame to the university between 1885 and 1920 by producing numerous state and regional oratorical contest winners.

Guy presented the college library with several rare books, including several valuable reference about the Orient.

Walker continued to write for magazine and book publishers. Among his titles were “Fundamental Education” (1912), “The Measure of Civilization” (1917), “The Things That Are Caesar’s — A Defense of Wealth” (1919), “The English Language and the People Who Speak It” (1920), “The Man Who Can, and Other Addresses” (1920), “Skeletons: A Claim Agent’s Story” (1921), “Gods of Nations” (1921), “Can We Escape War with Japan?” (1921), “Some China” (1922).and “Income Taxes and Hand of Death” (1924).

In his later years, Guy Walker and his wife, Minnie, spent more time in Mississippi. Guy collected books. Admitted to the bar in Indiana, New York, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan and California, Walker owned real estate in New York, Oregon, Kansas, Iowa and Mississippi.

Following Guy’s death, at age 75, in Laurel, Miss., on Aug. 4, 1945, most of his valuable books and papers were presented by gifts and bequests to the DePauw University Library.