Patricia Turner Walters, the widow of Wichita native, renowned and activist Ron Walters, has donated her collection of African American art to Howard University. The collection, valued at $2,519,950, includes 152 pieces of African American art including original pieces, sculptures, rare prints, photographs, and pieces from notable eras, including the Harlem Renaissance.
Walters who grew up in northeast Wichita, demonstrated his leadership skills early. He was the leader of the Wichita Branch NAACP Youth Council that in 1958 conducted the Dockum Drug Store sit-in, which led to the desegregation of drugstores in Wichita more than 18 months before the more widely publicized Greensboro sit-in began.
He went on to get his Ph. D. eventually working as a college professor at Brandeis University and Syracuse University. Walters served as a professor in Howard University’s Department of Political Science for 25 years and was the department chair for almost a decade.
He gained even more public recognition when he served as campaign manager and consultant for Rev. Jesse Jackson during his two presidential bids. He is the author of seven books and was often called upon as a political commentator on national news shows. For many years he wrote a political column for The Community Voice.
He died in 2010.
In order to continue and expand Walters’ legacy, Howard University will establish the Ronald W. Walters Endowed Chair for Race and Black Politics. The chair will be housed in the Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center at Howard University. It will spur interdisciplinary collaborations across the school on many of the diverse issues of race and Black politics, especially those issues that affect Americans of the African diaspora.
The Walters started their art collection in the late 1980s, collecting most of the pieces after 2002. The collection features artists like Robert S. Duncanson, Edward M. Bannister, Grafton Tyler Brown, Aaron Douglas, Norman Lewis, and Romare Bearden, as well as contemporary artists like Kehinde Wiley, Barkley Hendricks, Kerry James Marshall, and others.
“I could not be more delighted about the decision to give my art collection to Howard, the institution that my husband cared so deeply about,” said Walters. “I always knew I wanted to do something like this to honor my husband’s legacy, but I never imagined that I would get to see it happen in my lifetime. I am grateful to President Frederick for working with me to make this possible. I could not be happier.”