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Walker to be inducted into SWAC HOF

NATCHEZ — Former Alcorn State basketball standout Lonnie Walker will accept the honor of being inducted into the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame Thursday evening in Birmingham, Ala. Walker will accept the honor just one year after his wife, Shirley Walker, was inducted for her coaching tenure at Alcorn.

“I thank God I made it into the hall of fame,” Lonnie said. “It’s a blessing for my family and the things we’ve been through.”

Walker said the honor was made even more special by the fact that he will accompany his wife as a hall of famer.

“It’s so great,” he said. “We go places and people look up to you and say, ‘those two there have done something great.’ We represent our family each time we go somewhere and this is something to add on to it.”

Walker will go into the hall of fame as a basketball player, although he also played tennis and baseball and was also an assistant coach under Davey Whitney and head coach of the Braves’ basketball team.

Walker started his college career by becoming the SWAC freshman of the year in 1965. He followed that up by making the all-conference team in his sophomore season. Walker led the Braves to three conference championships in his four seasons at Alcorn.

“That’s something I’m very proud of, being a member of teams with the type of talent we had,” Walker said. “We had some real good talent during that time.”

Before making his way to Lorman, Walker was a standout at Fidelity High School in Houston, Texas. It was the wife of Walker’s high school basketball coach, Calvin White, who convinced the young prospect to go to Natchez.

Mary White was an Alcorn graduate, and told Walker’s mother that he should attend Alcorn.

“She told her, ‘They will take care of your son,’” Walker said. “So my mother prayed on it and decided for me to go to Alcorn.”

Walker had scholarship offers from Texas Southern, Prairie View A&M and Grambling State. He even had an offer from Michigan State to play football.

Walker played for Alcorn coach E.E. Simmons his first two seasons. Bob Hopkins coached his final two seasons after Simmons was killed in a car accident.

Walker said one of his greatest moments at Alcorn came in his freshman season when the Braves defeated previously unbeaten Arkansas Pine-Bluff (which was then Arkansas AM&N).

“They were riding high and then we beat them on our campus in our gym,” he said. “I was a freshman then and that is one of the highlights that flash back in my head from the 60s.”

Walker was a big guard for his time, and he compared his style of play to Magic Johnson.

Walker said he is excited about attending the induction ceremony in Birmingham Thursday. He plans on leaving Thursday morning and hopes this year’s ceremony will be as good as his wife’s last year.

“I expect a good turnout and welcome,” he said. “They did a great job with it last year while I was there.”

Walker will give a three-minute speech at the induction ceremony, and he said standing up in front of the crowd is not something that will bother him.

“I’m not nervous about it,” he said. “It’s something you get used to do being a coach for 20 years. Coaching with a legend (Davey Whitney) and listening to him make speeches, you ought to learn something.”

The Walkers currently make their home in Lorman just off the Alcorn State campus.