Robert Walker, one of the towering figures in Christian journalism of this past century, has died at age 95. Walker was the founder of Christian Bookseller magazine, now called Christian Retailing, and he also played a key role in the founding of the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) and the Evangelical Press Association (EPA).
The editor emeritus of Charisma & Christian Life, Walker passed away at a retirement community in Carol Stream, Ill., Saturday. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease and dementia since 2005.
Walker’s significant contribution to the Christian products industry was recognized in 1994 by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, which presented him with the group’s first Magazine Publishers Award.
Stephen Strang, president of Strang Communications in Lake Mary, Fla., said today: “Beyond all his accomplishments, Bob Walker was a deeply spiritual man who lived a life of utmost integrity. He impacted the lives of millions and will continue to through the publications he founded. We believe we’re the heirs of his publishing legacy. His life deeply impacted me and my entire organization. He’ll be missed.”
Born April 30, 1912, in Syracuse, N.Y., Walker originally enrolled at the University of Illinois, but later transferred to Wheaton College. After graduation, he worked at two newspapers in Michigan and for two years as a copywriter for a Chicago-based advertising agency.
Walker then accepted an invitation to return to Wheaton to start a journalism department. He was an associate professor there from 1941 to 1951, during which time he also responded to an invitation from a friend with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to start a campus magazine titled HIS.
That would be the first of many publishing endeavors. In 1941 Walker started a magazine called Sunday, which he renamed Christian Life in 1948 after acquiring Christian Life & Times from a friend. Christian Life would merge with Charisma in 1986.
Walker’s vision didn’t stop with for-profit enterprises. When he saw a need to help Christian writers, he started the Christian Writers Institute, and when he saw a need for missions outreach, he helped missionaries and founded Christian Life Missions.
Looking back on his career, Walker said he “would like people to think that I was sort of the chap who responded to what God wanted done. I sometimes kicked, and I often blew it by taking off in the wrong direction. (God) had to bring me back.”
Doug Trouten, executive director of the Evangelical Press Association (EPA), said that Walker’s death ended “an important chapter in the history of evangelical journalism. Bob was the last of the founding members of the EPA. He and other pioneering publishers joined together to learn from one another so they could do a better job of serving God, and serving their readers.”
Trouten added: “Bob was a giant in our industry, and countless lives were touched through his work with HIS magazine, Christian Life and the Christian Writers Institute. The Christian journalism world has grown significantly since those early days, but only because we stand on the shoulders of giants like Bob Walker.”
Walker is survived by his wife; five children; two stepchildren; 18 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held March 14 at Wheaton Bible Church in Illinois.