February 1996

Walker Emanuel Solomon, Sr.

Educator

Walker Emanuel Solomon, Sr.

Some people wait for things to happen while others are determined to make them happen. Walker Emanuel Solomon, Sr. makes things happen! He is a born leader possessing extraordinary skills which he has used to influence social, economic, political, educational and religious developments in South Carolina. After working as a teacher in Georgia and serving in the United States Army, Solomon arrived in South Carolina in 1946. Selected as Field Executive for the Boy Scouts of America in Columbia, Solomon was responsible for finding sponsors for black scout troops. The Boy Scouts adhered to the policy of de jure segregation which was prevalent throughout the South at that time. Working principally with African-American rural churches, Solomon trained men to become scout leaders. The children who became Boy Scouts were taught morals and civic responsibility. “They developed a sense of purpose,” Solomon said. “Many of them later went into the military and the discipline that they learned as Boy Scouts had a very positive effect on them.” Recognizing the need for a camp for young African-American men, he raised money to purchase, develop and equip a 188-acre site which became known as Camp Brownlee in Lexington County. In 1949, he was the recipient of the Boy Scout Statuette for distinguished professional service to the movement. An educator by training, with degrees from Morris Brown College in Atlanta and Atlanta University, Solomon in the 1950’s turned his efforts to securing equality for South Carolina’s African-American teachers. In 1950, he was chosen Executive Secretary of the Palmetto Education Association (PEA), a parallel organization to the South Carolina Education Association (SCEA), which barred black teachers from membership. Under his leadership, the PEA represented teachers at school board hearings and in the courts. Solomon worked with NAACP Legal Defense Attorney Thurgood Marshall, who became an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, to get the NAACP to represent the state’s black teachers. The PEA linked with other African-American teachers’ associations to contribute funds to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. This entity supported local groups against unfair practices, such as disparities that existed between black and white teachers’ salaries. When integration occurred in 1968, the PEA and the SCEA merged. For the next 12 years, Solomon served as the SCEA’s Associate Executive Director responsible for membership, teacher rights, political action, economic benefits, higher education and human relations. Appropriately, on his retirement, the SCEA established the Walker E. Solomon Human Relations Award and the Walker E. Solomon Scholarship. The 1980’s brought on fresh challenges, this time in the political arena. In 1984 and 1988, Solomon was the South Carolina chairperson of the Jesse Jackson for President Committee. His energetic leadership helped Jackson to carry the state in 1984 and 1988. Solomon became the first African-American to chair a delegation to a national political convention when he led the South Carolina delegation to the Democratic National Convention in 1988. Solomon has been a prominent lay leader of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and has helped to make the church more responsive to the social and economic needs of the community it serves. He is an active member of the National Council of Churches. From 1962-1974 he served as General Secretary of the Board of Lay Activities for the CME Church. Solomon has received numerous awards for his work, including selection as on of Ebony magazine’s Most Influential Black Leaders in 1968, the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest award in 1980, and the Whitney Young Award for Service to Youth in 1978. In 1995, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity established the Walker E. Solomon Lifetime Achievement Award. This great educator and public servant advises young people, “You must strive to be better than anyone else in order to succeed in this world.”