Ain’t Just Whistling Dixie: Walker Papers available for research

“You have turned quiet diplomacy into an art form, and your actions have improved bilateral relations by serving the interests of both the U.S. and ROK.” -Ronald Reagan, 1983

Richard L. “Dixie” Walker was a professor of international studies and U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, 1981-1986. Throughout his life and career, he emphasized the importance of intercultural understanding. President Reagan may have called Dixie a quiet diplomat, but after diving into his papers (now open for research!), this blogger* heard him loud and clear.

This collection, particularly the speeches and publications, showcases Dixie’s passion for education and the cultural understanding that should come from it. As an academic and professor, Dixie tasked educators and students at home and abroad to recognize, appreciate, and learn about different cultures, especially those of the Far East. “A Soldier Reviews His Education,” (1946) is one of Walker’s earliest publications that exemplifies these thoughts. By the time of his death in 2003, Walker had written 17 books, contributed to over 70 other works, and authored numerous articles and reviews.

Walker was one of the foremost China and Asia experts for the last half of the 20th Century. He participated in many professional academic and advocacy groups, including the Korea Society and the American Association for China Studies. He was also a prolific letter-writer  and corresponded frequently other academics and politicians. In particular, the collection holds correspondence with  Former President Ronald and Nancy Reagan, members of U.S. Congress, Korean officials, and institutions such as Yale University and Pusan National University in Seoul.

Walker served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946, and from 1945 to 1946 he served as a member of the Allied Translator Service at General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters in the Pacific Theater of Operations as a language interpreter. He also served during the Korean War, retiring as a U.S. Reserve officer in 1953. In 1957, Walker joined the faculty at the University of South Carolina. There he founded the Institute of International Studies in 1961, where he acted as its department head until 1972. It was renamed for him in 1994. Walker also received the first endowed professorship from the school, later retiring as James F. Byrnes Professor Emeritus and Ambassador-in-Residence. The collection contains numerous photographs from Walker’s military and early academic career.

Richard and Celeno Walker participating in a Hwangap at the ambassador’s residence, 1982.

Walker’s enthusiasm for cultural understanding shaped his diplomacy. His career as an ambassador was at a time when the United States and South Korea were strengthening their political and economic relationship. Though the period overall was seen as a triumph in relations, Walker’s ambassadorship was not without trouble. In South Korea there was a growing national identity, of which Walker was keenly aware, and a substantial amount of student activism. Walker also had to contend with outside attacks, such as the Rangoon Bombing in 1983 and the shooting down of Korean Airlines Flight 007. Information on all of these events may be found in the collection.

Outside of his diplomatic and academic career, Walker was a dedicated family man and friend. His wife Celeno “Ceny” Kenly Walker often traveled with him, and his family at times lived in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Ceny’s diary (1955-1956) and letters from Taiwan are in the collection. Also in the collection is correspondence with  wife Ceny, children Geoffry, Anne, and Stephen Bradley, Walker’s “Auntie Coz,” and friend Gail Wyman.

*Editor’s Note: This post was submitted by Heather M. Adkins, a graduate student at Middle Tennessee State University.  Heather processed the Richard L. Walker Papers this summer as SCPC’s 2012 Schuyler L. and Yvonne Moore Intern.  She also digitized a small segment of the Walker Papers.  Visit Richard L. Walker: In His Own Words to see these documents.  We asked Heather to reflect on her internship and what she learned this summer.  See what she had to say.

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