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MELISSA GRAVES WALKER
by scottbthompsonsr
 PEOPLE LIKE US
May 12, 2011 | 3760 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

WALKER, Melissa MELISSA GRAVES WALKER 1941-2011 Melissa Graves Walker --- author, college professor and activist for civil rights, peace, and environmental issues --- died May 4th at Hospice Atlanta of breast cancer. Diagnosed and first treated in 1997, Walker's cancer was dormant until it returned in early 2008. Born and raised in Dublin, Ga., Walker completed both her undergraduate and doctoral degrees in English literature at Emory University. She taught first at the University of New Orleans and then at Mercer University in Atlanta, where she served as chair of the English department. In 1990 she became a Fellow in the Institute of Women's Studies at Emory. In 1984 Walker wrote Writing Research Papers: A Norton Guide. This popular textbook subsequently came out in four editions, the most recent in 1997. In 1991 Yale University Press published her book Down from the Mountaintop: Black Women's Novels in the Wake of the Civil Rights Movement. While teaching, writing, and raising a family, Walker became an activist for civil rights, peace, and environmental issues. She was an outspoken advocate for wilderness and served for ten years on the national board of Wilderness Watch as well as president of the Georgia chapter. She also served on the executive council of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE), and was vice chair of the Southern Appalachian Council of the Wilderness Society. In 1994, Norton published her edited collection of essays by nature and science writers entitled Reading the Environment. Shortly after turning fifty, Walker embarked on a solitary quest to learn about America's wilderness areas. She made two extended trips to the American west, camping in Arizona's sky islands, the northern Rockies, the red rock canyons of southern Utah, the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, and finally on the deck of a ferry bound for Alaska. Each of these two trips lasted about three months, and during the intervening winter she camped in and around the Everglades. Her account of these travels, Living on Wilderness Time: 200 Days Alone in America's Wild Places , was published by the University of Virginia Press and won the Georgia Writers' Association award for Best Memoir of the Year in 2002. Beginning with her first visit to Alaska via ferry, Walker made a total of ten trips to Alaska. She recalled that since her childhood she had always wanted to go "as far north as I could go." She traveled alone to the Alaskan Arctic to learn about Eskimo culture. Another trip took her to the Canadian Arctic to actually see polar bears in the wild, as well as learn about the challenges they face as the world's climate changes. Walker's first book for children, A Place for Delta , tells the story of an orphaned polar bear cub. Set in both the Alaskan Arctic and the Appalachian mountains of North Georgia, the book is illustrated by her son Richard Walker. Published in the spring of last year, it won the International Book Award for Best Children's Fiction of 2010. Melissa Walker is survived by her husband Dr. Jerome Walker, her son Richard Walker, and her daughter Laura Walker. Grandsons Joseph and Max Walker live in Decatur, while grandson Alan Sanchez lives in Phoenix. There will be a memorial service at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 26th at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, 1911 Cliff Valley Way, Atlanta, Ga., 30329. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in Dr. Melissa Walker's name to Wilderness Watch, PO Box 9175, Missoula, Montana, 59807.

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