On Gloucester Main Street, a new mural has been completed, honoring and celebrating the life and legacy of one of Gloucester County’s most notable historical figures. Commissioned in 2019, the Cook Foundation honors the man widely known as Virginia’s “Black Governor,” Thomas Calhoun (T.C.) Walker. Born a slave before President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, Walker grew up to become the first African-American to practice law in Gloucester County.
Completed by artist Michael Rosato, the mural began as a sketch, soon later becoming a large-scale, visual narrative that marks the fourth completed mural on Gloucester Main Street. Utilizing the sizable, white-washed wall of the building next to Gloucester’s former Texaco station, Rosato worked for several months to transform the blank canvas into a highly detailed work of art that raises awareness, improves the quality of life for local residents, encourages pride in the community and recognizes the remarkable journey of Walker’s life that serves as a tremendous example of determination and accomplishment.
“It’s the life story of T.C. Walker and starts when he was a boy, a child, until he reaches his later years. It’s a remarkable story. My goal with the mural is to get you to really know, on a more in-depth level, all the things that made T.C. Walker, T.C. Walker.” – Michael Rosato
In his life, Walker served as a passionate teacher, lawyer and government official. When he was 13-years old, he learned to read and write from a spelling book and later made his way to Hampton Institute (Hampton University) with 92 cents in his pocket, in search of a higher education. He was denied admission, but Walker persuaded the school’s founder to make an exception, allowing him to work on campus during the day to attend classes at night. He went on to practice law, working to defend fellow African-Americans during the mid-to-late 1880’s. In 1891, Walker entered politics, and he was elected to the Gloucester County Board of Supervisors. A few decades later, President Roosevelt appointed Walker as the advisor and consultant of Negro affairs for the Virginia Emergency Relief Administration, and it was this appointment that earned him the nickname “Black Governor” of Virginia. Although he was a passionate public servant, Walker maintained a strong admiration for education, and he went on to become a superintendent for Gloucester Negro Schools before he passed in 1953 at the age of 91. He was well-known for donating money to help build schools for African-Americans within Gloucester County, amongst other selfless acts that remind us of why we celebrate and honor his legacy today.
If you’d like to learn more about T.C. Walker’s life, click here!
“I hope that everyone, when they see it, is thrilled with the beauty of the mural and the beauty of the message of the mural.” – Adrianne Joseph, President, Cook Foundation
Photo Credit: The Cook Foundation