This article originally appeared in the Garland/Mesquite section of The Dallas Morning News on July 21, 1995.


By Michael R. Hayslip

Bud Walker, a Garland institution wrapped inside another Garland institution, turns 90 on July 29th. It will also be his 61st wedding anniversary, so he is sure to remember that.

As Chairman Emeritus of NationsBank-Garland he will probably show up early that day as usual, patrolling the beat between his office and the coffee room, where the regulars will jostle him around about being the oldest employee on a NationsBank payroll anywhere. He hopes they forget his age, because he says he needs the work and would like to have a raise.

Howard Addison “Bud” Walker is also Garland’s oldest living former tax-equalization board member, city councilman, mayor, savings and loan head, North Texas Municipal Water District board member, and Chamber of Commerce Tall Texan Award winner. The Garland Business and Professional Women gave him their Big G award, and the Salvation Army presented him their “Others” award, the Army’s highest award, for his work as a board member and chairman of the building committee for their first building in Garland.

An adopted transplant from Dallas, Walker moved to Garland in 1937 as a buyer for the Texas Cotton Growers’ Cooperative, covering northeast Dallas, southern Collin and all of Rockwall county, as well as any other spots he found by intent or mistake. He and his wife Evelyn rented a house on Avenue A for $18 a month. The city had less than 2,000 residents back then, and the ones who are left tend to forget that the Walkers ever lived anyplace else. His children, Howard “Buddy” Walker Jr., Martha Stendig, and Bob Walker were all raised here and still live in the area with their families.

His lifelong study of people had begun as a boy, when he assisted members of the Dallas Fishing and Hunting Club in Hutchins, where his parents were resident managers. Almost everybody who was anybody in Dallas then belonged, and Walker enjoyed becoming useful.  Rubbing shoulders at an early age with the rich and powerful taught him valuable lessons and immunized him against being too overimpressed with himself or anybody else.

His first real job was with W. D. Felder & Co., cotton merchants. Felder himself was a member of the club and admired the young man’s style. Dealing between farmers and merchants, Walker developed his “touch” with both. In his kindly, jovial, self-deprecating manner he became a consummate conciliator. It was hard to know him without being his friend and feeling comfortable about it.

Hypoallergic to making speeches and writing letters, Walker was also cautious about adding machines, but could do ciphers in his head at lightning speed. Despite his disdain for detail, he could quickly distill complex issues, but he seemed most comfortable being underestimated.

His normal conversation, best described as “Walkertalk,” tramples over the boundaries of a dictionary with eloquent simplicity. It includes lots of encouraging superlatives, such as “best,” “finest,” and “greatest,” but sometimes adds or drops syllables as necessary. Pleasurable surprise merits at least a “go-osh!” if not an “ain’tat sump’n?” Unpleasant surprise evokes an “uungh,” and discovery produces an “oo-ohh.” His favorite punctuation mark is laughter, mostly self-directed.

All these characteristics sustained him as a city councilman from 1948 to 1952, then as mayor until 1956. He claims he had little hankering for either job, but people kept electing him anyway. Garland was growing so fast that new residents showed up before city services did.  Once, when the Rowlett Creek sewer plant was running brim full and fragrant, Mayor Walker drove out to placate an irate farmer living downwind. “This fella got off ‘n his tractor yellin’ and came at me with a shotgun,” he said. “He was so mad he just threw his hat down on the ground and stomped on it. I never saw nobody stomp his own hat before.”

If there were any cotton left to buy, friends believe Walker would still be propped up against a fence dealing, but when cotton phased out in the ‘50s, he had to move with it or settle for a desk job. Old-timers in town figured he might have something to offer, so in 1958 work turned up running the old Garland Federal Savings and Loan Association. To him it was all a matter of handling people, anyway.

“Then one day in 1960,” he drawls, “Mr. Davis (First National Bank Chairman A. R. Davis) said they needed me up to the bank to help with the real estate and commercial loans.  I’d been on that board since 1946, and they made me a vice-president while I was out of the room. After that I got promoted some. I’ve had alotta help and good secretaries.” He has remained with the bank as it evolved into Republic Bank, Republic-Interfirst and NationsBank Garland, giving sage advice and wise counsel to several generations of local families who prize his friendship..

Walker dodges unpleasantries with a “we-ll, less don’t talk ‘boutat” approach, but when cornered, he follows advice from the late J. E. Coyle, a renowned Rowlett cotton man, who once advised him to “be extra nice and polite to people that do you dirty, ‘cause it shames ‘em.” To answer complaints about interest rates, he has been known to toss a note and pen across his desk at the borrower and say “put down a rate you think’s fair.” When an extended interview is headed nowhere, he simply stands up and looks around silently in all directions, as though seeking relief.

While he no longer makes loans, Walker keeps close tabs on local goings on and enjoys  meeting new people. He trys to avoid gossip, but eagerly absorbs news. Since his eyesight is not as sharp as he would like, he appreciates it when people identify themselves, particularly if they are women hugging on him.

NationsBank Garland will mark Walker’s birthday with a reception on Friday morning, July 28, from 9 to 12. Friends, as well as contributors to this article, are invited to visit and swap stories over cake and punch, so Mr. Bud won’t have to make no speeches.