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Richard Walker

Entrepreneur, Town Councillor & First Mayor

Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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OBITUARY: see the Daily Dispatch, 21.3.1935.

Richard Walker was born in Grahamstown in 1843 of 1820 Settler parents. He was educated at St Andrew's Grammar School, after which he was employed in the offices of a business firm in King William's Town.

He moved to East London and started his own firm on the West Bank and moved to the East Bank in 1881.

His firm was originally known as Walker Brothers which dealt as commission agents as well as shipping, landing and forwarding agents, with head-quarters in Jetty and High Street on the West Bank and in Station Street on the East Bank.

By 1883 the firm had become known as Walker, Tatham & Company, shipping and forwarding agents, and wool pressers.

In that same year Walker started his own firm known as Richard Walker & Company, which dealt in wool, feathers, general merchandise, property and farms, stock and auctioneering. He had his wool stores and wool presses in Station Street.

He also served on the committee of the Kaffrarian Steam Landing and Shipping Company. In 1879 he became a Justice of the Peace for the East London division and served for a time as consular agent for the Austrian Government.

Walker also served on the Town Council, being elected for Ward 1 from January 1879 until November 1886. He returned to the Council as a representative for Ward 4 in March 1900 after a long absence and remained in office until his resignation in June 1908.

He became Chairman of the Municipal Board in July 1879 when John Gately resigned and was elected again in 1880. In February 1881 he had the distinction of becoming East London's first Mayor but he resigned the chair and his seat in the Council in December that year.

He was elected Deputy Mayor in 1904, became Mayor once more in 1905 and 1906 but lost the election of 1907 by a single vote to John Bisseker.

There was, however, a problem with this election. There were only seven members at that Council meeting, and three seats were vacant. Bisseker felt that the election was unfair and therefore resigned the mayoralty in May at the first meeting at which there was a full house. Walker won and became Mayor for the fourth time.

He died in Johannesburg on 16 March 1935 at the age of 92.

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