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George Walker (composer)

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George Walker
Benjamin Steinberg and Prof. George Walker.jpg
Walker, holding the score, in 1968
George Theophilus Walker

June 27, 1922(1922-06-27)
DiedAugust 23, 2018(2018-08-23) (aged 96)
Alma materOberlin College
OccupationComposer, educator, autobiographer
Years active1940s – 2012
AwardsPulitzer Prize for Music (1996)

George Theophilus Walker (June 27, 1922 – August 23, 2018) was an African-American composer, educator and autobiographer. He was the first to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music.[1] He received the Pulitzer for his work Lilacs in 1996.[2][3]

Early life

Walker was born in Washington, D.C..[4] He studied at Oberlin College.


Walker taught music at Columbia University, Wayne State University, Wellesley College, Temple University, Washington University in St. Louis, Williams College and Montclair State University.[5]

In 1946, Walker composed his String Quartet no. 1. A string orchestra arrangement of the second movement of that work received its world premiere in a radio broadcast that was conducted by pianist Seymour Lipkin.

Walker was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999.[6] The following year, Walker was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry proclaimed June 17, 1997 as “George Walker Day”.[7] in the nation's capitol.

His autobiography, "Reminiscences of an American Composer and Pianist", was released in 2009 by Scarecrow Press.[8]

Personal life

Walker was the father of two sons, violinist and composer Gregory T.S. Walker,[9] and playwright Ian Walker.

Walker died on August 23, 2018 from a fall at a hospital in Montclair, New Jersey at the age of 96.[10]


  1. "The Pulitzer Prizes". Retrieved October 1, 2016. 
  2. De Lerma, Dominique-Rene. "African Heritage Symphonic Series". Liner note essay. Cedille Records CDR061.
  3. Walker, George (2009) Reminiscences of an American Composer and Pianist, Scarecrow Press, p. 153
  4. "Walker, George Theophilus (1922- ) – The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed". Retrieved October 1, 2016. 
  5. Siberz, Heidi. "George Theophilus Walker: February's Contemporary Composer". Indiana Public Media. Retrieved October 30, 2016. 
  6. "American Academy of Arts and Letters – Current Members". Archived from the original on June 24, 2016. Retrieved October 30, 2016. 
  7. "George Walker: Prominent Composer & Washingtonian Grew Up on Sherman Avenue". Park View, D.C.. December 24, 2012. Retrieved October 1, 2016. 
  8. George Walker. "Reminiscences of an American Composer and Pianist, By George Walker, 9780810869400 | Rowman & Littlefield". Retrieved October 1, 2016. 
  9. Walker, George (2009) Reminiscences of an American Composer and Pianist, Scarecrow Press, p. 156
  10. George Walker, Trailblazing American Composer, Dies At 96

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