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Robert Hardison “Bobby” Walker

Posted on Tuesday, June 18, 2024 at 2:00 pm

Robert Hardison “Bobby” Walker, 97, of Lewisburg, Tenn., passed away peacefully on Monday, June 17, 2024.

Mr. Walker is best known as the longtime president of Walker Die Casting, Inc., which he founded in 1958 and presided over for many years.

Mr. Walker was born on September 13, 1926, in Martinsville, Va., to John Robert and Edith Hardison Walker. He attended schools in Martinsville, and upon graduating in 1944, attended Virginia Military Institute (VMI). He was soon called to service and arrived in Europe in February 1945. He served in the 42nd Infantry Division, U.S. Army, and then with the Occupation Forces in Austria, returning to the U.S. in October 1946.

Upon his return, Mr. Walker attended the University of Virginia and then came to Lewisburg, where he worked at his grandfather’s store, W.H. Hardison Hardware. He was also in the U.S. Army Reserve and in 1950, Mr. Walker was called to active duty. He served in the U.S. Army in Korea from September 1950 to October 1951.

Upon his return from the war in Korea, Mr. Walker resumed work in Lewisburg, Tenn., and later became a traveling salesman for Shapleigh Hardware.

In June of 1958, he started Walker Metal Products. It began with one die cast machine and three employees, housed in the basement of Kuhn’s Variety store in downtown Lewisburg. (This is where First Horizon Bank currently stands.)

Walker Metal’s first product was zinc stay nut castings. The company quickly succeeded and outgrew its downtown location and moved to an unused airport hangar on Spring Place Road. That plant was destroyed by fire in 1965. Walker Metal resumed operations at a secondary location in Lewisburg until a new facility could be built in the Industrial Park in 1967.
Walker Metal Products continued producing zinc die castings and then expanded into the production of aluminum die castings. The company was renamed Walker Die Casting, Inc. in 1974.

Walker Die Casting, Inc. became known throughout the industry for its dedication to quality and meeting commitments. The company was named Outstanding Supplier by Simpson Industries, received the QE Award from Chrysler, and was the first die caster to be self-certified by General Motors.

Mr. Walker led the company from 1958 until 1995, when his son, John Robert Walker II, took over as Company President. Mr. Walker remained on as Chairman of the Board. In 2019, Walker Die Casting, Inc. was acquired by Allison Transmission.

Honors and affiliations
Among his many honors and affiliations, Mr. Walker was a former member of the Martin Methodist College Board of Trustees, CB&S Bank Board of Trustees, Farmers Bank of Cornersville Board of Trustees, and Lewisburg Board of Zoning Appeals. He was a former member of the board of directors of the Tennessee Manufacturers Association. He held many leadership positions at Lewisburg First United Methodist Church and was a member of the Chancel Choir for 65 years. He was Marshall County Citizen of the Year in 1983. He was named a Tennessee Colonel-Aide-de Camp by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2013.

Mr. Walker had many lifelong interests. He was instrumental in youth baseball in Marshall County for many decades. He helped establish the Little League field in 1965. He also sponsored the Marshall County Dusters baseball team for over 40 years.

He was also a benefactor to Martin Methodist College, the Methodist Church, and countless individuals in need of assistance.

Mr. Walker had a lifelong love of music and enjoyed playing with his bluegrass band, The Tuesday Night Pickers. He was instrumental in supporting the Marshall County Theatre. Mr. Walker was also an avid bridge player and enjoyed chess.

Mr. Walker was predeceased by his wife, Frances Hart Walker in 1991, and by his sisters, Anne Duncan Walker Niver and Wynefred Walker Rogerson.

Mr. Walker is survived by his wife, Nancy Jean Neill Walker; daughters Edith Walker of Nashville, Tenn. and Polly Walker Arnold (Gil) of Raleigh, NC; sons John Robert Walker, II (Janice), William Hardison Walker, Samuel Wade Hart Walker (Dana); and Jean Walker’s sons, Phillip Rodgers and David Rodgers, all of Lewisburg, Tenn.; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Mr. Walker’s frequent saying was, “Do something for somebody,” which he learned as a child in Sunday school. He lived that pledge himself, with a devotion to family, community, God and country.

The funeral service for Mr. Walker will be held at the Lewisburg Methodist Church on Saturday, June 22, 202,4 at 11:00 a.m. Visitation will be at the McKnight Center in Lewisburg on Friday evening from 4:00 until 8:00 p.m. Memorials may be made to the charity of your choice.

London Funeral Home and Crematory is honored to serve the family.