Hal Walls, Sr.March 31, 1919 ~ March 5, 2017 (age 97)
Father. Husband. Granddaddy.
Farmer. Activist. Christian. Friend.
Hal Walls Sr., entered this world on Monday, March 31,1919, in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. He was the third of four children born to William and Pauline Harris Walls. His parents were sharecroppers on a local cotton farm, and young Hal had to leave grade school to help work the land.
Hal accepted Christ at age 12 at Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Paynes, Mississippi. By the time he was 18, he was a full-time farmer, and at 20 he became a husband when he married Willie D. Conley on December 4, 1939. Five years later the couple moved to Chicago, and Hal worked for the Campbell Soup Co. and the Illinois Rubber and Plastics Co. After a year, he decided city living wasn't for him, so he and his wife returned to farming in Deering, Missouri.
He worked for his father-in-law, Neute Conley, as a sharecropper. After six years of farming rented land, Hal bought his first 80 acres and moved to Bragg City, Missouri. He and Willie built their dream house there and later purchased an additional 160 acres. In 1954, they joined St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Pasacola, Missouri, where he served faithfully as a deacon for decades.
Hal and his wife had 10 children. Although the couple had no formal schooling beyond 5th grade, they both knew the importance of education and hard work. They instilled a love for learning, an abiding faith in God, an incredible work ethic and a drive to excel in their five sons and five daughters. All of them attended college, including nine at the University of Missouri. Although Hal never realized his dream of becoming a doctor, lawyer or teacher, he was proud to see several of his children and grandchildren have successful careers in those fields and other professions. At 86, Hal was thrilled to receive an honorary diploma from North Pemiscot County High School, the public school he helped desegregate and from which most of his children graduated.
In 1974, the Walls family was named Missouri Farmers Home Administration’s Family of the Year. The award was established to honor families who demonstrated outstanding progress as farmers and rural citizens.
Hal and Willie devoted themselves not only to the welfare of their own family, but also worked tirelessly to improve educational opportunities and quality of life for others in their community. They were leaders in the PTA, the NAACP, and in their church; and they helped to desegregate the schools and other public entities. They also offered financial assistance to college students beyond their own family. In the 1990s, Hal helped achieve justice for black farmers as a plaintiff in a successful discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A lifetime member of Wardell Lodge #157 of the Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons, Hal was also a lifetime member of the NAACP. During the 1960s he helped organize African Americans in the community to fight segregation in the schools and other public places. He also participated in voter registration drives and civil rights marches.
Hal loved being with his family and rarely missed an opportunity to gather with them for weddings, holidays, graduations and other special events. One of the highlights of his life was attending the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., braving frigid temperature to see the swearing in of the nation’s first black president.
Hal spent his final years in the D.C. area, enjoying his ever-growing family. He became a member under watch care at the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, where the Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley is pastor. Hal went home to be with Lord on Sunday, March 5, 2017, passing away peacefully in Virginia, surrounded by the family he loved so much.
Hal was preceded in death by his parents, William and Pauline Walls; his wife of more than 45 years, Willie; sisters Elma Boyd and Sonora McClendon; and infant brother Woodrow Walls.
He is survived by his 10 children: Senora Haywood (Rowe) of Aberdeen, Maryland; Ulysses Walls of San Diego, California; Queenie Walls Randall of Temple Hills, Maryland; Thelma Bataille (Tom) of Mesa, Arizona; Hal Walls Jr. (Barbranda) of Alexandria, Virginia; Dora Walls of Temple Hills, Maryland; Linda Walls Cooper (Willie O.) of Oakland, California; Gene Walls of Washington, D.C.; Kelvin Walls (Sarah) of Kansas City, Missouri; and Brian Walls (Kira) of Indialantic, Florida. Also left to miss him are 22 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and other family members and friends.
Memorial contributions to honor Hal Walls Sr. may be sent to St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 86 County Road 276, Hayti, MO 63851; and to the Hal and Willie Walls Medical School Scholarship, University of Missouri, Office of Advancement, One Hospital Dr., DC205.00, Columbia, MO 65212.