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Darren Walker

Non-profit executive and foundation president Darren Walker was born in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1959, and raised in Ames and Goose Creek, Texas. He graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1982, and received his J.D. degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1986.

Walker was hired at the international law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in 1986. In 1988, he joined the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), where he spent seven years in the capital markets division. He left UBS in 1995 and worked for a year as a full-time volunteer at The Children’s Storefront, an elementary school serving low-income families in Harlem. Walker then entered the nonprofit sector as chief operating officer for the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a community development organization in Harlem, where he guided efforts to develop housing for low and moderate-income families. In this capacity, he oversaw two of Harlem's largest privately financed commercial projects as well as the development of the first public school built in New York City by a community organization.

Walker was hired by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2002 as director of its domestic urban program. In 2006, he was promoted to vice president for foundation initiatives, where he led both domestic and global programs. Then, in 2010, Walker was named the Ford Foundation’s vice president for Education, Creativity and Free Expression, where he shaped more than $140 million in annual grant-making around the world. Walker was appointed the tenth president of the Ford Foundation in September of 2013, becoming the second African American to head the foundation.

He has served on the boards of the Arcus Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Friends of the High Line, the New York City Ballet, and the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies. He also co-chaired the New York Public Library Council. In addition, Walker has taught housing, law and urban development at the New York University School of Law and Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and is a fellow of the Institute for Urban Design. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and has received the University of Texas Distinguished Alumni Award as well as the Honorary Order of the Coif by its law school. He is the recipient of honorary degrees from Bard College and Miami Dade College.

Walker lives in Manhattan, New York with his partner, David Beitzel, a contemporary art dealer.

Darren Walker was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 26, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.170

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/26/2014

Last Name

Walker

Maker Category
Marital Status

Domestic Partner

Middle Name

C.

Schools

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas at Austin School of Law

Sterling H S

Cedar Bayou J H

First Name

Darren

Birth City, State, Country

Lafayette

HM ID

WAL22

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Carribean

Favorite Quote

You Know What I Mean

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/28/1959

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Short Description

Nonprofit executive and foundation president Darren Walker (1959 - ) was named tenth president of the Ford Foundation in 2013. He previously served as COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation in Harlem, and as vice president for the Rockefeller Foundation’s program initiatives.

Employment

Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton

Union Bank of Switzerland

Abyssinian Development Corporation

Rockefeller Foundation

Ford Foundation

Favorite Color

Orange

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Darren Walker's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Darren Walker lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Darren Walker talks about his mother, Beulah Davis Spencer

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Darren Walker describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Darren Walker recounts his childhood years in Ames, Texas and Baytown, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Darren Walker describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Darren Walker talks about family life and his personality as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Darren Walker describes his active childhood imagination

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Darren Walker recounts role models he read about in Ebony and Jet magazines

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Darren Walker talks about the role of church in his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Darren Walker describes his awareness of the Civil Rights Movement as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Darren Walker recalls his childhood education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Darren Walker remembers his grade school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Darren Walker remembers his experience at Sterling High School in Baytown, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Darren Walker talks about his experience at the University of Texas at Austin, and coming to terms with his sexual identity

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Darren Walker talks about his activities in the Texas Student Union and the Friar Society at the University of Texas at Austin

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Darren Walker recalls his first experience at a country club with a college suite mate

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Darren Walker describes his mentors from college who inspired him to go to law school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Darren Walker recalls his job in the office of Texas Governor Bill Clements prior to law school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Darren Walker talks about his summer internship at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in New York City while a student at the University of Texas School of Law

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Darren Walker describes his first years at the law firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Darren Walker talks about his experience at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, pt.1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Darren Walker talks about his experience at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, pt.2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Darren Walker recalls his introduction to Ned O'Gorman and then to HistoryMaker Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Darren Walker describes New York City in the 1980s and 1990s

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Darren Walker talks about his tenure at UBS

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Darren Walker talks about how he became a board member of the New York City Ballet and of the Children's Storefront School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Darren Walker describes how his social and civic engagement benefited from his position at UBS

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Darren Walker talks about leaving Wall Street and joining the Abyssinian Development Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Darren Walker talks about becoming the COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Darren Walker talks about his work in the Abyssinian Development Corporation with Karen Phillips and HistoryMaker Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Darren Walker recalls the recommendation from HistoryMaker Stacey Stewart that led him to his joining the Rockefeller Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Darren Walker describes his appointment as director of the domestic urban program at the Rockefeller Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Darren Walker talks about his ascent from program director to vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Darren Walker talks about his mentors and supporters including Johnnetta Cole, Ann Fudge, Franklin Thomas, and HistoryMakers Richard Parsons and Vernon Jordan

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Darren Walker talks about African American foundation presidents Franklin Thomas, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, and HistoryMakers Earl Lewis and La June Montgomery Tabron

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Darren Walker talks about Franklin Thomas, the first African American president of the Ford Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Darren Walker describes the impact of President Bill Clinton's move to Harlem, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Darren Walker talks about his tenure at the Rockefeller Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Darren Walker talks about the Ford Foundation's focus on social justice

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Darren Walker describes how he became the president of the Ford Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Darren Walker talks about the Ford Foundation's budget and challenges

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Darren Walker describes how he has been a beneficiary of the Ford Foundation's legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Darren Walker describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Darren Walker reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$1

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
Darren Walker talks about his work in the Abyssinian Development Corporation with Karen Phillips and HistoryMaker Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts
Darren Walker recounts his childhood years in Ames, Texas and Baytown, Texas
Transcript
Okay, so, so, can you talk about Pathmark?$$Sure, the Pathmark was important because, in spite of the fact that Harlem [New York] had more people than Atlanta [Georgia], there was no supermarket in Central Harlem. And we had been, we, meaning the Abyssinian Development Corporation, along with partners on the east side of Harlem, had been advocating for a site on 125th Street to become the site of a, of a, of a supermarket. And after a long arduous, formidable campaign, we were able to get control of the land, the city-owned land, and to attract national supermarket chain Pathmark. And it was transformative. It was a moment that signaled that development was going to take hold on 125th Street, and that we were going to seed all across 125th Street new, new development. Which today, of course, 125th Street abounds in development, but in 1995, there were not many people willing to take a risk on 125th Street.$$When you think about that, that's just about twenty years, less than twenty years.$$Absolutely, less than twenty years.$$And then the other, 'cause I hear there's Whole Foods getting ready to go there.$$Oh, Whole Foods, now it's, it was a tipping point. It, it just needed that tipping point, and once that, then Starbucks, then and it just fed on its own.$$So what, what did it take to get that done? You said after much--and then I'm also thinking you had not grown up in the church and here you are--$$Well, two things: one, I was not a member of Abyssinian Baptist Church, in part, because I felt it was important that I not buy into this idea that my minister is the head of the business that I am in, in charge with running, because there were some behaviors on the part of some church members who worked for the development corporation that I didn't think reflected the kind of independent thought that was needed. And, and it allowed me to have a relationship with [HM] Reverend [Dr. Calvin] Butts that was based more on the business of the development that he wanted to achieve than it was as my spiritual leader. And it's just, it's just important to, to, to know how different the context in Harlem in the '90s [1990s] was than it is today, and that a significant part of that transformation is due to Calvin Butts's vision and Karen Phillips' very hard work and a lot of, a lot of hard work, because not everyone believed in that vision.$$Now were there conflicts between the three of you?$$Oh yes, always, in the best way for all the right reasons. Are we moving fast enough? Are we moving too fast? Are we being too aggressive with city hall? Should we be more aggressive with the bank? Should we work harder on, on the blocks to get the residents to clean up their stoops? I mean there was always these tensions. Are we spending too much money? Are we spending too little money? Always though carried out constructively and with just the right spirit.$$So how much--so where is the funding coming from? How much is coming from the government? How much are you set to raise and--$$Sure, a third, a third, a third, a third government, a third corporate, a third private.$$Okay.$So, your--when you moved, do you remember when you move also to Houston [Texas]?$$Well, so, when we left at, when I was four, and we moved to, to Ames, Texas--$$Ames, Texas, which is--$$We moved to Ames, Texas. I was four, and I remember that, that time, I think, which, which was around the time I was riding--because we moved into this little shotgun house.$$Oh, so this story that you just told is in Ames?$$Is in Ames, yes, yes. I have no memory of, of, of--$$Rayne [Louisiana].$$--Louisiana, of Rayne. I have no memory whatsoever before we moved. My first memory as a child was of, was of being in Rayne.$$Okay.$$I'm sorry, being in Ames.$$Ames. So in Ames, so are you--is it also rural too?$$Yes, in Ames, Ames is a, was a small town, is a small town, was a small town of approximately maybe three or four thousand people when I was growing up. The next town was Liberty, Texas. And Liberty, Texas, maybe in 1965 had 25,000 people, 50,000 today maybe. So, this was the setting for my early years. I also remember when I was in Head Start, and I read--I was very interested in reading, my mother encouraged me to read, and we had a book called "Wings to Adventure." And I remember that the book was in, it, it was about fantasy and travel. And I remember thinking that it, it was otherworldly, because it was so out of my lived experience, but it so sparked my imagination. And it was the first time I thought about travel and a world outside of my own.$$That book?$$Mm.$$Now, can you describe--so are you living in the shotgun house in Ames a long time, or do you move around?$$So, I live in that, we live in that little house until--I then, when I'm, when I'm in the--we moved to Baytown [Texas], to Goose Creek, whatever you want to you--(unclear)--when I was in the maybe third grade, and, and that's where I lived from then until graduating from high school.$$So, what is that area like? What was the difference in those two places?$$Well, moving to, to Baytown/Goose Creek was closer to Houston [Texas], so that was good. We lived, then it, it was about forty-five minutes to an hour outside of Houston. And it was, still a small town, but because of the proximity to Houston, there was--and the fact that there were just more jobs there because there was a very large Humble Oil refinery, so the economic situation there was much better than it was in the small town of, the very small town of Ames.$$Okay.$$And it was racially very segregated. I remember that the schools were transitioning and had recently transition to integration, and that the colored, the Negro high school, which was called George Washington Carver, had become a junior high school in the newly integrated district, and that the African American students from George Washington Carver were then transferred to Robert E. Lee High School. And there was another school called Ross S. Sterling, and I ultimately went to high school at Ross S. Sterling High School. Ross S. Sterling was a governor of, of Texas.

The Honorable Edward Brooke

Edward Brooke, III was born in Washington, D.C., on October 26, 1919. His father, Edward Brooke, Jr., was an attorney for the Veterans Administration for more than fifty years, and his mother, Helen, later worked on all of Brooke’s political campaigns. Brooke entered Howard University at the age of sixteen, and earned his B.A. degree in sociology in 1941. After graduation, Brooke entered the U.S. Army and was sent overseas. A decorated captain in the all-black 366th Combat Infantry Regiment, Brooke defended men in military tribunals. During the Italian campaign, Brooke disguised himself as an Italian, crossing enemy lines to meet with the Italian Partisans and facing Nazi and Fascist troops.

Returning from World War II and experienced in legal proceedings, Brooke enrolled in Boston University Law School, earning an LL.B. in 1948 and an LL.M. a year later, as well as serving as the editor of the school’s Law Review. While practicing law in Boston, Brooke began seeking political office. Despite good showings in several races between 1950 and 1960, he failed to win. However, in 1960, he was appointed chairman of the Boston Finance Commission, where he exposed corruption in many city departments. His popularity high from his work there, Brooke was elected to the office of Massachusetts Attorney General, becoming the first African American to hold that post in the nation. He remained in the office for two terms, and in 1966, he won election to the U.S. Senate, where he was the first African American to be elected by popular vote, the first to be seated since Reconstruction and later the only to be re-elected.

During his first term in the Senate, Brooke spent a great deal of time on the issue of the Vietnam War, traveling to Asia on fact-finding missions. Upon his return, he requested that the United States cease using napalm. He also began calling for an end to trade with South Africa because of its apartheid policies. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to the National Commission on Civil Disorders, which made recommendations that ultimately took shape as the 1968 Civil Rights Act. Brooke later challenged Richard Nixon's Supreme Court nominees Hainsworth and Carswell, even though he had supported Nixon’s bid for the presidency. Brooke later became the first senator to call for Nixon’s resignation. Leaving Congress in 1979, Brooke spent another six years in private practice before retiring.

Brooke received thirty-four honorary degrees from the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities and numerous other awards, including the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP and the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit from the Italian Government. In 2000, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts dedicated a courthouse in his honor.

Brooke passed away on January 3, 2015 at the age of 95.

Accession Number

A2003.233

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/23/2003

Last Name

Brooke

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Boston University School of Law

Howard University

First Name

Edward

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

BRO10

Favorite Season

Spring

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

St. Martin, French West Indies

Favorite Quote

You do what you have to do.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

10/26/1919

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Miami

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lamb

Death Date

1/3/2015

Short Description

U.S. senator The Honorable Edward Brooke (1919 - 2015 ) was the first African American to be elected senator by popular vote, the first to be seated since Reconstruction, and the first to be re-elected. During the Vietnam war, he called for a ban on napalm; he also served on the National Commission on Civil Disorders and later was the first senator to call for the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.

Employment

Boston Finance Commission

State of Massachusetts

United States Senate

C. Splar & Bok

O'Connor & Hannan

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Edward Brooke

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke identifies five favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke provides information about his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke shares information about his paternal lineage and father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke reflects on his childhood in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke discusses childhood activities and heroes

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Edward Brooke describes the personalities of his mother and father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Edward Brooke talks experiences and influences at Dunbar High School in Washington D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke describes himself as a student in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke identifies a high school mentor

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke talks about commuting as a student to Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke reflects on sports at Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke remembers notable professors at Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke discusses his college involvement in the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Edward Brooke talks about the significance of black organizations

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke discusses his entrance into the Army

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke describes degregation in the army

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke shares stories about his army experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke shares stories of discrimination while serving in the army

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke talks about the low morale of the black troops

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke recounts leading a band of Italian partisans

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke reflects on the historical service of blacks in the military

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke retells a story of a suprise attack on the enemy while stationed in Italy

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke details the reluctance to use black troops for combat duty

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke describes the mix of emotions upon returning home after the war

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke shared details about his black combat unit

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke discusses meeting and marrying an Italian woman

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke recounts his decision to attend law school

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke talks about living in the Roxbury district of Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke discusses entering private legal practice

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke talks about running for public office

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke describes his involvement in Massachusetts politics

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke comments on the impact of his wife's race on his campaigns

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke talks about running for Secretary of State

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke describes some of the challenges he faced while investigating corruption

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke discusses being elected Attorney General for Massachusetts

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke talks about the Boston Strangler case

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke discusses politics in Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke talks about the Voting Rights Act

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke talks about the importance of economic and political power

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke highlights the contributions of individuals to black political and economic progress

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke comments on Barry Goldwater

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke comments on black elected officials

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Edward Brooke discusses his path to the Senate

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Edward Brooke discusses his constituency

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Edward Brooke talks about political opposition in 1966

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke explains his approach to public office

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke talks about opposition to his run for the United States Senate

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke discusses the Vietnam war

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke identifies issues he confronted while running for the United States Senate

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke talks about the Watts riot

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke discusses black voters and the two major political parties

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Edward Brooke talks about the Kennedy family

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Edward Brooke discusses black voter support and black representation

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke outlines key issues for future black Senatorial candidates

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke discusses his contentious relationship with Richard Nixon

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke details his stature and influence in the Republican Party

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke reveals his abhorrence for the Republican Southern Strategy

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke discusses Richard Nixon's strengths and weaknesses

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke remembers his advice to Richard Nixon to resign the Presidency

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Edward Brooke recounts his views on the Vietnam War and a meeting with Lyndon Johnson

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Edward Brooke notes highlights from his Senate career

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke shares his hopes and concerns for society

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke reflects on his legacy