Murray Atkins Walls (1899-1993)

Historical Marker #2134 in Louisville notes Murray Atkins Walls’ achievements as an educator and civil rights activist.

Walls was born on December 22, 1899, in Indianapolis. She was the daughter of a physician, Calvin R. Atkins. While in Indiana, Walls finished high school and completed her bachelor’s degree at Butler University. Moving to New York City, she then received her master's degree from Columbia University.

Walls moved back to Indianapolis where she began a teaching career. In 1935, she married a physician, John H. Walls, and settled in Louisville. Dr. Walls was also an activist for civil rights, and he was one of the first presidents of the NAACP chapter in Louisville.

Murray Walls campaigned throughout her life for racial integration in educational spaces. She first tackled the segregation of Louisville's Free Public Library system and participated in a sit-in at the whites-only main library in 1941. Then, in the 1950s, she earned a position from Governor A. B. "Happy" Chandler on the Kentucky State Board of Education. During this time, Walls fought for desegregation in schools and classrooms.

In addition, Walls worked as a federal housing surveyor in the 1930s. Through this occupation, she became an advocate of public housing for African Americans and of open housing in the 1960s. She was also appointed to the Louisville Human Relations Commission in 1964.

In 1940, Walls joined the interracial committee for Negro Girl Scouting. While involved with the Girl Scouts organization, she worked to start a camp for African American scouts and later helped to desegregate Camp Shantituck near Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The organization honored her with her highest award, the Thanks Badge, in 1962.

Walls died in Louisville on September 16, 1993, and was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. Dedicated in 2004, the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana honored Walls' activism and vision with a historical marker.

Images

Murray Atkins Walls

Murray Atkins Walls

Murray Atkins Wall graduated from Butler University in Indianapolis, before doing graduate work at Columbia University. Courtesy of the Kentucky Human Rights Commission. View File Details Page

Walls and Girl Scouts

Walls and Girl Scouts

Murray Atkins Walls is shown here serving lunch to Girl Scouts at Camp Dan Beard. Courtesy of the University of Louisville. View File Details Page

Dr. John Walls

Dr. John Walls

Murray's husband, Dr. John H. Walls, is pictured here comforting a friend. Courtesy of the University of Louisville. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Whitney Todd, “Murray Atkins Walls (1899-1993),” ExploreKYHistory, accessed April 26, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/310.

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