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19th annual Women in Business Summit
1-1 Speed Networking
Ninety-three-year-old Luther Walker strolls across the crosswalk as he lifts his orange flag and handheld stop sign. He has reigned the intersection of Voss Road and Rainsong Drive at the entrance of PISD’s Mitchell Elementary since 2002. A gentle soul with a heart of gold, Luther’s popularity among students, parents and faculty members is unmistakeable.
“I used to cross over 200 kids a day. Some are in college, some are out of college. Some come back to visit me, and I don’t even remember all of them,” he laughs as he recalls children from year’s past. He even boasts over a few of their collegiate scholarship accomplishments.
Like the sun above us, his smile radiates warmth and brings happiness to all. It’s no wonder the occupants of almost every passing car slow down to wave and honk a sweet hello. The kids and parents of Mitchell are his family, and they have made him a part of theirs. Luther’s spirit is famously sincere, and his age is no reflection of his daily capabilities. In fact, he still drives himself to and from work.
A year ago, his car began to overheat after just a couple miles of drive time, and the repair bill was beyond his means. “The parents at this school got me this car,” Luther says while patting the hood of his replacement Chevrolet Impala. “I’ve had it ’bout a year now. A lady named Evie was the main one behind it. My old car was actin’ up.” Evie Purviance created a GoFundMe page with a goal of $2,500 to cover the cost of repairs. But when donations reached $11,662, Luther was able to buy a new car.
His years of service go beyond his current Monday through Friday job. Luther is also a veteran, a man who fought for our nation’s freedom.
Luther served in World War II for almost four years after the draft. He trained in Georgia and California for about a year and later “went overseas in ‘43 to Honolulu after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in ‘41.” Then, it was time to take action.
He fought as a member of the Tenth U.S. Army in the battle of Okinawa—the largest amphibious landing in the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II—from April to June of 1945. More than 12,000 Americans were killed and 50,000 wounded. Additionally, there were 50,000 Allied casualties and more than 150,000 Japanese.
“They were bombin’, fightin’, everything,” Luther recalls. “[The Japanese] tried to bomb my outfit (or some call it a battalion), but they didn’t get to us. We knew what speed [the pilot] had. We knew his altitude. We had a radar on him. We put a barrage up of men with 90 millimeter guns that covers 50 yards in every direction. The outpost from above said we knocked out the last two planes, the bombers they called ‘Betty.’”
Luther even remembers the name of the man in charge of the Tenth Army, Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., who was killed in the final days of the battle of Okinawa.
Six weeks after the battle ended in Okinawa, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki occurred. “It was pretty horrible….the bombing at Hiroshima.” Luther spent six more months in the Pacific before heading home to Texas, where he’s lived ever since.
Originally published in the November 2016 issue.