Baylor seeks creation of statues of first Black graduates

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Baylor University is seeking artists and foundries to create life-sized bronze statues of the University’s first Black graduates – the Rev. Robert Gilbert B.A. ’67, and Mrs. Barbara Walker B.A. ’67. The statues will ultimately stand in front of Baylor’s historic Tidwell Bible Building.

The University has begun the process to receive Requests for Qualifications (RFQs) from interested artists.

Baylor underwent an extensive process during the past year to research its complete history with the establishment of the Commission on Historic Campus Representations and one of the key recommendations of the final report was to better communicate the many contributions of Black students, faculty and staff throughout Baylor’s history, including through physical representations on the campus.

“There is much work to be done as we take measures to address all historical aspects of the Baylor story and celebrate the value of all members of the Baylor Family in fulfillment of our Christian mission,” said President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. “These statues and physical representations are a key step to help us all celebrate the strength, courage and accomplishments of two very important people – and all people of color – in our University’s history.”

Gilbert came to Baylor as a transfer student from Paul Quinn College, initially looking to get his law degree in order to change the injustices around him. After graduation, he spent three years as the first African-American teacher at a Waco-area middle school before realizing he felt a calling to ministry. Despite severe health challenges, Gilbert pastored at churches throughout Waco and the surrounding area and was well known as a local civil rights leader. He passed away in 1992 at age 50.

Walker also transferred to Baylor from Paul Quinn, excelling academically from an early age and finding her fit at Baylor in the field of social work. She later earned a master’s degree in social work from Florida State, then spent more than 30 years as a licensed clinical social worker, including leading the state of California’s Department of Mental Health’s inpatient and outpatient mental health programs for many years — like Gilbert, seeing her life’s work as a calling and ministry. She retired in 2001, but has remained connected to Baylor, often returning to speak to students.

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