Buford Rice “Sonny” Walker entered this life – May 12, 1939, Mother’s Day weekend, and entered eternal life on JUNE 5, 2021. He tarried on this earthly journey for 82 years and 25 days. Born in Chicago, IL (Southside); raised in Kansas City, MO; and the living the 60 years in Los Angeles, CA., over that period, Buford Rice “Sonny” Walker embraced God’s mission for his life, wasted no time, tapped into every opportunity to leave this world better than when he emerged at birth. The first of 4 children born to Rice Walker and Vernell Crawford Walker and a lifelong Catholic, he was confirmed in 1947 at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, and during his youth, served as an altar boy.
Buford attended Corpus Christi Elementary in Chicago before the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri where he graduated from Bishop Hogan High School. A dedicated and talented athlete, he was awarded full scholarship to St Ambrose College – Davenport, Iowa. Other credentials include certification for Drug and Alcohol Addiction Counselor – Acton Rehabilitation Center – Acton, CA; and California Peace Officer Service & Training certification.
“Sonny” retired as Director of Government Relations – So Calif. Water Replenishment District (2003 – 2004). His career included service as Chief Operations Officer – State of California – Exposition Park (1989 – 2002) and co-founder of Curator Kids at the California Science Center that served children from the Watts community. He also worked as Director of Project BUILD, an empowerment program for residents of Watts, was self-employed as founding VP of DART, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program; was a Counselor/Chief Therapist – CompCare Corp.- View Park location; Deputy Director of Administrative Services for The Wagon Program at Central City Community Mental Health Center; was a Counselor – Sugar Ray Youth Foundation; and Counselor/Supervising teacher at Headstart in Nickerson Gardens.
“Sonny” kept any audience spell bound with stories of his ‘street light’ basketball games in the alleys of the Southside of Chicago, advocating for Black athletes on Kansas City courts, cultural and racial isolation in Iowa bergs, being drafted to the Kansas City Bulls (precursor to the Chicago Bulls) and Harlem Globe Trotter bus road trips. “Beavo”, as he was known in KC, was voted into All Stars in Catholic schools, and first team for All City Catholic League All Stars. Yes, basketball was both his vocation & avocation, which made him an avid reader of the sports page. Later he read the daily newspapers to stay up on current news to also share with his wife so that she would not go out into the world, as he said, uninformed. He loved traveling to new places and returning to old landmarks. Memorable was a vacation to Bermuda, his honeymoon spot, with some of their adult children, where new bonds were formed, and a special trip with three grandchildren, who were high school graduates of the class of 2000, to So Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Zambia to help them see the world through the lens of their African heritage. Grandpa also went on a Fact Finding journey to check on three grands whose father’s home was Ife, Nigeria and who would spend 5 years there in order to provide them with a bi-cultural experience. When he showed at family gatherings, or in response to any invitation, that event became “special” because he never minced words and knew how to say “no” leaving no room for negotiation or debate.
Recognized for his no-nonsense advocacy, Speaker Willie Brown appointed Mr. Walker to serve on the California State Legislature Advisory Board on Alcohol Related Problems 1982 – 1993. Other Honors and Awards – Community Service Proclamation – City of Santa Monica for assisting to find adoptive homes for youngsters in the foster care system; Bi-Centennial Salute Proclamation for meritorious services in the City of LA Award- Human Relations Commission; National advocate Certificate – Alcoholism Council of Greater Los Angeles; National Council of Negro Women – Black Family Reunion organizer; LA Marathon certificate for support; California Science Center award for outstanding service; Notre Dame Football Association Key Advocate; #1 Dad trophy – Buford Walker Clan.
“Sonny” was proud of his role in founding the Sons of Watts after the 1965 LA/Watts Riots and his membership in the Black Panthers. Creating solutions rather than dwelling on problems was key as he worked to make South Central Los Angeles equal to other communities in LA County. Nothing was more important than inspiring young people, especially Black youth to strive in spite of lower expectations by society, and being a role model to those seeking a second chance.
Welcoming him into eternity are his father & mother – Rice and Vernell Walker, sister – Volandia Adu-Neal, and son, Vincent Walker. He bade “so long” to a host who, while continuing their journey, will cherish his memory and remember his wise counsel:
His wife of 43 years, Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker; seven children in a wonderfully blended family – Brenda Kaye Walker Winston, Reginald Rice Walker (Sylvia), Buford Rice “Chuck” Walker, Jr. (Louise Rosario Torrices), Raymond Cornell Walker (Karen), Stephanie Denise Williams, Kamela Heyward-Rotimi (Bankole), and Jesse Brown, III; 24 grandchildren – Rodger Duran Winston, Jimmesha Winston Lenhoff (Scott), Sylvia Winston Nichols (Chester), David Reginald Walker (Jaquetta), Dwayne Eric Walker (____), Monique Walker, Christian Walker, Jordan Walker, Jaiden Walker, Brandon A. Williams, Kolawole Philip Heyward-Rotimi, Karina Jacquelyn Heyward-Rotimi, Kemi ____ Heyward-Rotimi, Obadyah A. Brown, Jonah B. Canfield, Wayne Walker, Nick Walker, Nora’s son, Zoe son, JJ, Rachel Walker, D’Mitri Walker, Julian Walker,; 12 great-grands; brothers – Grover Pullium Walker and Daniel Arthur Walker; aunts, cousins, nieces/nephews and global extended family. Adopted family members are Robert “Bob” Campbell, Robin Nicholas, and Richard Glen Hines.
Just a few days ago, we observed our front porch cactus – that we’ve known as the “Sonny cactus” with 10 buds. It is important to share that it only blooms at night, every 3 – 5 years. With these buds ready to bloom, we rejoiced, and receive this wonder as a spiritual sign that all is well with its namesake “Sonny”. There is no doubt in our lives, that God is in charge which gives us peace of mind that passes all understanding. We thank God for the time we had with Buford Rice “Sonny” Walker on earth and look forward to eternity.
Monday, June 21, 2021
11:00 am PDT
St. Paul’s Catholic Church
1920 South Bronson Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90018
323-730-9490 – church office
Friar Alexei Smith, Celebrant
Rev. John Cager, III, Cooperating Clergy
Services will be live streamed via Facebook
Cremation: The Alpha Society (no inquiries please)
The family appreciates all expressions of love and condolence and request plants for Sonny’s garden or donations for King Solomon’s Village (WEDC’s community in development for homeless/houseless residents in the 9th Council District – city of Los Angeles)
Expressions of Condolences can be sent to:
Mrs. Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker
1621 Wellington Road
Los Angeles, California 90019
323-734-7856 – home