Roger E. Walker Jr.'s legacy today remains precisely what it was five years ago.
While his accomplishments were plenty, what he is remembered for is the people he touched.
We remember and commemorate Walker again as the sign naming a section of Illinois 48 the “Sheriff Roger E. Walker Jr. Memorial Road.”
A public celebration of the signage is Friday, Nov. 3.
Walker was the first black sheriff elected in Illinois history and director of the Illinois Department of Corrections from 2003 to 2009. He was known for building consensus, and he devoted much of his life to making Decatur and Macon County a better place. He died in 2012 at the age of 63. But that's a mere fragment of the story.
The things said about Walker have been consistent. Those who encountered the man – and there were thousands – described him in remarkably similar ways during his life, immediately after his passing, and even now, five years after his death.
"He knew how to treat people, how to talk to others. He could deal with just about anybody in any kind of circumstances."
“He was honest to a fault, hardworking and a true friend to all he met.”
"I hated going to lunch with him. He would talk to everyone in the restaurant. He just loved to talk to people.”
"He's one of the most remarkable citizens Illinois has ever seen and had run for public office."
There aren't many people who receive a handful of those type of comments, let alone the torrent that results any time Walker's name is mentioned.
Following the May announcement of the naming honor, Walker's nephew Shalen Walker said, "To hear all those people talk about him. There are so many people who he'll live forever in their hearts. He's still a pillar within our family. His name will always bring all of us together.”
We don't need a section of road named after Roger Walker Jr. to remember him. As Shalen Walker points out, he'll live forever in the hearts of so many. But we need the section named so we can think of him on a regular basis, and do our best to emulate his best.