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April 13, 2024 31 mins
Mr. Walker was the first black artist in Memphis commissioned to paint the portrait of the first Black Mayor of Memphis, Mayor Herenton. 
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Episode Transcript

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(00:00):
All right, you guys, it'stime welcome to another edition of the Pulse
now today. You know, wealways keeping our fingertips on the pulse of
our community. I am Stormy andI want to thank you guys for supporting
this show and being here. I'vemet a lot of y'all on the streets
and you say I listen every noton the streets literally, but I've met
a lot of you that say youlisten every Sunday or every weekend, and

(00:21):
I appreciate you. Now got anotherspecial guest. It just never stops,
ladies and gentlemen. So my guesttoday is an artist. He not in
the let's see an acting sort ofa way, but literally an artist,
an amazing artist. I've seen someof his work. You probably have too.

(00:45):
Let me introduce, let me lethim introduce himself to you, and
then he can introduce his lovely wifebecause she is here as well. Go
ahead, sir, Thank you Stormy. I guess most people know me as
Larry Walk Her, but I dohave a Facebook following and they know me
as the amazing mister Walker. AndI'll have to explain how I got the

(01:08):
amazing part, Okay, but we'llget into that, and then of course
I'm here with my amazing wife.Ahind there, Sawy, Hey, it's
an honor to be here. I'velistened to your show. I listened to
you often, but for sure Ilistened to the pulse. Okay, thank
you. Just to be on thein the studio with you as a real,

(01:30):
honest appreciate it. It's an honorto have both of you here.
You guys have been married for howlong? Next month? I love when
people ask those tests. Yeah,next month will be twenty seven years.
Twenty seven years. Oh my goodness, y'all don't look old enough to have
been married for twenty seven years.Both of you look fairly young. I

(01:52):
met this young man, Wendacember.We were engaged at January and we got
married that May. And to ourunion, we've been together twenty seven years
and we have five girls. Toour union, we both brought sons into
the marriage. Okay, it didn'ttake me long to know she was the
one. Oh, I see shesaid December, then January then May.

(02:16):
Hey, you didn't waste no time. I love it. I love it.
Now let's get into something that reallyhad me. Have you come by
your work as an artist. Whatdo you call yourself? Well, I
am a professional portrait artist, Okay, I mean that's what I do.

(02:37):
And when you say professional, y'all, I've seen this work and you probably,
like I said, many of youprobably have two amazing breath taking you
are so talented. Wow. No, you far beyond what I can even
describe right now. I mean whenI let me give my wife to get
a checkbook out, I'm telling youwhen I'm fascinated by people, and that's

(03:07):
what moves me to have certain peopleon the show, because I'm fascinated by
people and what they do. AndI wish i'd had you for Black History
Month because you have. You andyour wife were telling me when I met
you the other day that you haveactually done some oil paintings for a couple
of our mayors in the city.Yes, I have. Yes, Actually

(03:31):
Mayor Harrington was the first, Iguess you considered official portrait that I did
for the city. And it's kindof interesting because you know, I used
to tell the mayor, Well,a lot of artists used to ask,
man, let me do your portrait, let me do your portrait. Well
I did the same thing. Yeah, man, I love to do your
portrait. And so of course aftera while, you realize when I run

(03:53):
to my artist friends, they'll say, yeah, man, he said,
he's gonna help me to do hisportrait. I talked to him and I
said, wow, okay, butof course we're all accident. And then
I thought about it. I said, you know, Mayor Harrington has the
ability to create history twice. Nowhe's the elected African American, first elected

(04:15):
African American mayor, but there's neverbeen an artist who has a portrait hanging
in the Hall of Mayors that isAfrican American. Mmm. That's because we've
always had white mayors. And sothat was an opening door opportunity for not
just me, any artists. Sowhoever he you know, would select,

(04:35):
would be the artist. And sothe next time I ran across him,
I asked him that. I toldhim, I said, MA, heard
you do know that you have theability to create history twice. He kind
of looked at me, from whatdo you mean? And so when I
explained to him about there's never beenan artist, an African American artist with
a portrait hanging in the Hall ofMayors, he said, and you knew

(04:58):
that? And he didn't, Well, you know what. Yeah. Yeah.
And so when we got it wasa Sunday evening and my wife and
I were together as usual, andwe were heading home and we got this
call from Gail Carson and she said, Doc is going to give you a
call. So she didn't say whatit was about. Yeah, I said,

(05:21):
okay, And so he called andhe said, Larry, you know
who this is? And I said, of course I do. You know
you got the force and so hesaid. They asked me who do I
want to paint my portrait? AndI said I want Larry Walker. Wow,

(05:42):
that was a great honor to me. But that was the first one
you did. Yeah, so hemade history. You made some history,
right, And and let me justsay this, yes, the second portrait
I did was because I've done agreat job on Mayor ward And actually I
would just I'm sorry Mayor Harrington's portrait. Mayor Warden had to sign off on

(06:04):
it. But he said, hispeople call me and say, because it's
the it's the incoming mayor that signsoff on the outgoing mayor's portrait. Absolutely
okay. And a lot of peopleused to ask, so why don't you
do Mayor so and so portrait thatwas before he had asked me off,
before he was no longer mayor.And I didn't know that myself until Robert

(06:28):
Listman explained to me how the processwere. And then it has to be
when the marriage finished. Wow.Yeah, Well, I want to say
something about Mayor Harrington's portrait. Thatwas an experience because every time we would
see Mayor Harrington, mister Walker wouldalways speak and he always would go,

(06:49):
I would love to do your portrait. But to me it was like persistent.
He was persistent but polite. Yes, it's just whenever he would see
him, and so I, youknow, being around him, I said,
you were planning that you planted tosee and you put water on it

(07:09):
and you were consistent and then itcame back. So when he got the
cash, came into fruish. AndI will say, this artist, when
he gets an idea, it's Ican see him. It's almost like Malcolm
X. You know that look whatMalcolm has his hand on his chin and

(07:30):
he's looking like he's thinking. Whenmister Walker looks up in the up in
the air, I know something ispercolating. But you know most people think
that I've been drawing all my life. Yeah, that's not true. It's
not and so that's that's why sometimesI like to go into our class and
I and I would talk to thestudents and explain to them that I was

(07:53):
a late starter. I didn't reallystart drawing until I was in the ninth
grade. Before then, yeah,every kid kind of dibbled, dabbles,
yeah, but I never really thoughtabout really drawing and painting. So there
were so many other artists that Ithought were really great, and I thought
I would grow up one day andbecome an art appreciator and purchase their works

(08:16):
of art. Right. Well,in the ninth grade is when everything changed
for me. It wasn't until myteacher had a bookmarker contest and she wanted
everybody to enter. And so ofcourse I'm telling these other students, man,
you're good, you're great, you'regoing you could win this. And
so I'd go to the next student, I say the same thing. You

(08:39):
liked the promoter, right, Andso I was what they call a teacher's
pet, because I I was theguy that passed out pencils and paper and
stuff. So I'm not really drawingin class. But the teacher came back
maybe two weeks later, and said, look, I need everybody to enter
this contest, and if you do, I'm going to bring your grade up
one at her. Now, letme let you know something about this,

(09:01):
stormy. I was a C studentbecause that's all you're gonna get passing out
paper and pencils. That's it.And so all I could think of was
one letter. That's a be thatmakes me actually look like I'm an artist
from a grade standpoint. So Igot all excited, and so I just

(09:22):
turned in something. I'm sure itdidn't even look like anything, but I
turned in something. I mean,she was gonna hold to her word.
I was gonna make sure she holdsher word. And so, of course,
when the day came when they madethe announcement for the winners, some
of them telling you they always start, you know, at the bottom,

(09:43):
third place. When they said thirdplace and they said my name, I
don't know who won first or second. I was just excited, too excited.
I just could not believe it.So that was the turn point for
me. But I'm sure most peopleare like I am. They get too

(10:05):
excited and they just talk about itso much. Yeah, and I had
a ribbon that I tied around myneck like a medallion. I had a
three musketeer cannon bar that came asmy prize, and I walked around like
it was a trophy. I justso that was the beginning. This was
before Was that before good times?Because I think for most African American families,

(10:26):
good see JJ be an artist ona TV show was with a lot
of people. I think maybe alot of black people realized they could be
artists just because they saw that imageon television. You know. But now
JJ had a lot of confidence.Yeah, I don't know if I had,
but by confidence level did change afterthat contest. And I just went

(10:50):
around talking about that like it waslike the world. And so of course
most kids loved to bust people bubbles, uh huh. And some kid I
remember saying to me, Hey,look, we're tired of hearing about this
ribbon and candy bar you want becauseeverybody in the school knows didn't number three
people in her Wow, Well thatwasn't my problem. Hello, they didn't

(11:16):
have to give me the ribbon andcandybarpathy. They did, That's it,
they did. And so and sojust let you know, don't let nobody
rain on your parade. Don't letthem do it. Is this the portrait
of Mayor Harrington? Or is thatjust a picture that I'm looking at on
Uh, that's the picture that I'mlooking at on social media. I tried
to google the portrait and it didn'treally come up. You had it at

(11:41):
the office, a replica, andI got I just gotta go down the
City Hall and see it for myself. And I gotta go and see Mayor
Warden's Mayorhattan's. Yeah, I gottago see them about Mayor Warden. But
well, first let me say this. You put a pin in that.
But y'all, I saw some otherpainting that you did, one of Mississippi
Boulevard's pastor, one of Pastor GenieStewart. Can I say that? Is

(12:09):
it okay to say that? Amazing? Amazing? Amazing? And I know
if it's downtown in City Hall,Harrington and ward I know it's amazing.
I know. I mean, y'all, if you've never heard of Larry Walker,

(12:30):
you are hearing about him today.If you never and you know,
if you like me, you're alate bloomel So I'm you know, I've
heard of a lot of artists,but I don't I don't know if I've
met a lot of them, butto meet you and then to see your
work, oh my goodness, Ican I can see you doing Brock and
Michelle's and I know for that washistory for the White House. They had

(12:54):
African American artists do their pictures inthe in the White House. So it's
yeah, that's how good, y'all. It's good, thank you, thank
you. And so from that,from just being an artist, you and
your wife have just come together todo things in the community together. Because
I know you're getting ready for thisvisible Portraits of Light this Sunday, and

(13:20):
that's gonna be what where is itgoing to be? The Memphis Renaissance Convincent
Center downtown. Okay, what time? Doors open at three programs? Okay,
Yeah, that that's gonna be amazing. I saw a lot of about
the voting on social media, butthis isn't the first time, and I
know I've talked about it before onthe radio two, but this isn't the

(13:43):
first time. This is year two. Yes, and you use the proceeds
from this event to go to anonprofit nonprofit which is Pain America. Okay,
clean founder, Okay, Okay,Now what is Pain America Clean Foundation.
What is that well, The organizationexists to promote mental, physical,

(14:05):
and spiritual well being utilizing the wonderfulworld of the arts. So it's not
just visual arts, but creative writing. Eventually will add in music and dance,
but taken into account the creative modesof not only the young people,
but all of us. Because webelieve that everybody has this ability to be

(14:31):
clean. We live in such aworld that navigates the negativity. So if
we can paint America clean, oneperson at a time, one city at
a time. That's one of thereasons why he started the visible Portraits of
Light is so that people who giveand who are in service, if we

(14:56):
put a light on them and avery I guess, top of the line
kind of way, then perhaps otherpeople might see that light. Yeah,
you don't want to shine to Yeah, portraits of Light. I love it.
You were getting ready to tell mesomething about Mayor Warden a moment ago,

(15:18):
and I cut you off. Iwant you to finish it. What
people don't realize about Mayor Warden isthat he created history as well. He
is the only not just African Americanmayor, but the only mayor who was
county mayor and also became city Heis the only one. So now that's

(15:41):
another honor to have done his portraitright, and matter of fact, I
did. He is for the countyand then he turned around and let me
do the one for the city.And so every time I see him,
I said, thank you. Whatan honor? Yeah, what an honor?
Oh my god, goodness, y'all, I'm talking to artists Larry Walker

(16:03):
and his amazing wife, Shiranda.Did I get it right? You did?
Okay? Thank Yeah, he's amazing. You know that's his favorite word.
Our kids no amazing And you know, being married to an artist,
you know it. You can sayI'm the word person and he's the visual

(16:27):
because not only does he do portraits, all things art when it comes to
he's done murals throughout the city.He's done he's been commissioned by the Urban
Arts Commission. He painted a muralon Mitchell Community Center, Oh Wow,
where he designed the mural with thecommunity in mind, and they selected people

(16:51):
who were like the pioneers of WalkerHome community and so their portraits are on
the community center. And what we'vefound out is many people who grew up
in that neighborhood. When they goby that mural, they see the principal
of the first Elementary School, theysee the principal, first principal of Mitchell,

(17:15):
they see the crossing Guards, theysee the Girl Scout leaders, they
see Barbara Cooper's on that mural.Wow. So when people go by,
they go, oh, it bringsback memories of their childhood. Yeah,
so it is definitely a community mural. Yeah. Okay, what's next outside

(17:37):
of the event that's happening this weekend, Visible Portraits of Light. You did
tell me something because I stopped byyour studio and I do want to talk
about the youth and their paintings.So we'll get to that. But you
told me at one point you wantedto paint when you were younger, every
pastor in town. Yes, whatwas your thought behind doing that or saying
that? Well, I have thisthing about pastors. I just think they're

(18:03):
the greatest thing ever. I'm alwaysmesmerized when I hear ministers preach. I
had gotten to a point that Iused to go to a different church almost
every Sunday because I used to hearI wanted to hear different pastors presentation about
God, and so I just reallybelieve that they are God messengers too,

(18:27):
and so I just wanted to dosomething that I thought that they would like.
It would be a portrait. Andso, of course I thought because
I'm from North Memphis and I didn'tventure out too far, you know,
my mother didn't let us go toofar. And so now I'm in the
ninth grade now. Of course,when I wanted the contest, I said,

(18:48):
I'm gonna paint all the pastors inthe city. Yeah. Well,
in my mind, the city wasjust norm Memphis. They didn't take for
one year. When I went tohigh school. Oh yeah, you could
see a whole lot of stuff,a whole lot of the city. And
so I realized, oh, Ican't paint every pastor in the city.

(19:11):
Too many churches in the city,a lot of churches, a lot of
pastors. But so what do thepastors say when they see their portraits unveiled?
What do they say? Are theyAre they as blown away as I
am because they look so good andso so much like them. Well,

(19:34):
you know, it's it's one thingto see an artist do a portrait and
you're like, okay, what kindof looks kind of kind of but yours
is all. It's like I tellhim all the time, he captures the
essence of the person. Yeah.So it's almost like the painting comes to
life. Yes, and that's it. The paints come to life. That's

(19:55):
it. But that's the reason whyI like for pastors to come in or
any client to come in and sitfor detail. If you sit for detail,
it will look as if you setfor it all the way through.
Wow. So how long is thesitting for the detail? About an hour?
Okay at the maxis just But withinthat hour I will be able to

(20:17):
see a lot of detail that aphotograph didn't get, a lot of the
personality that a photograph won't capture.And so I know that's talent. That's
that's talent. And using your hands, young people, y'all, y'all better
here now, and your hands cansave your life in more ways than one.

(20:40):
You know, don't don't take itfor granted. Well I won't tell
you the story about it how Isaved my life, but oh yeah,
oh wow, yeah, I believeit. I believe it. I mean
from you know, people that usetheir hands, put people that are pianists,
all of them artists of some sort. You know what I'm saying,
People that use their hands to dotheir jobs and all these people are you.

(21:03):
The way y'all see the world isis like man, I wish I
could see it through your eyes.Yes, you know. I went over
to the Brooks Museum and saw alot of the painting over there. It
blew me away. And coming tosee the painting at your place, and
even those young kids that you showedme their paintings, it blew me away.

(21:25):
Let me just say that heart touchesme in a way that I can
tell when you walk through the door. Yeah, you were, you were
so engaged in it. Larry lovesart. He since we've been together,
he's been doing art, and beforewe got together, of course he's been

(21:47):
art. And he's the kind ofartist that likes to help. Yeah,
if he can help, he wantsto. I was definitely say he's a
servant, you know, to thecommunity. So passing the torch on to
the kids. When he started theVisible Portions of Light. One of the

(22:07):
things that we noted is when yougo to a museum, if any if
you have ever gone to a museum, I've been, Rarely do you see
people of African descent in leadership roleson canvas. You may see a slave
boy in the field, but rarelydo you see a leader. Those canvases

(22:32):
that you see in museum's last notten years, not fifty. They last
hundreds and hundreds of years. Someof them have been around four hundred years.
When you go up, that paintingwas four hundred years now. Yeah,
So we are making a mark tocapture history. In fact, we
talk about the tenants with paint Americaclean. We want people to witness history,

(22:56):
preserve history, and gift history tofuture generations. We may never meet,
so they'll see those portraits. Idon't know, you know, I
think about my pastor when I wasgrowing up, Pastor Clark at Oak Grove
Church and off of Kansas in SouthMemphis. But he's no longer here.

(23:18):
My kids may not ever see anythingthat resembles him, but he touched my
life. He was very instrumental inmy moral fabric and growing up. So
there are so many people who've pavedthe way, who've helped families stay together

(23:40):
by praying together and supplying those needsthat may not have been met by the
community. So to be able toutilize his talent in putting them on canvas
will outlive us. It's almost likeI think about the Withers Museum that want

(24:03):
of with us. Huh, he'spainted with us. I believe it.
It was a pasteale. But yeah, yeah, yeah, it's amazing.
Well, this station is the onethat commissioned me to do it. Really,
Wow? W d I A oriHeart? I'm sorry, I get
it mixed up. Hold on,stop, don't mention no other statement.

(24:30):
I'm getting him mixed up because Idid some things for the station. I
did a portrait of Bobby. Idid Rufus Thomas for the station. Okay,
but the Withers family had me todo a portrait of mister Withers.
Oh remember you did want of BobbyO J. Where is it? I

(24:52):
don't know? Wow? And younever did you keep a copy of it?
Oh no, no, they gaveit to Bobby. It was for
his birthday. It was one ofhis birthday parties. And wow, the
station commissioned me to do it.I know, it's fabulous. It was
a charcoal the one my wife.Yeah, but I know it was fabulous.
I know it was. I knowit was fabulous. Just man,

(25:17):
the history, So to me,you're like the mister Withers was. His
artistry was in taking a picture,and yours is in painting it right,
a little more intricate, a littlemore involved. You told me something yesterday
that because I really think you're alegend, a Memphis legend, mister Larry

(25:38):
Walker. You guys, don't makeme blessed. Don't make me blessed.
No, it's true. I thinkyou're a legend. And your portraits,
I mean, they'll live on forfor Yeah, like your wife was talking
about the But you told me aboutall paintings, and that's what you do
with a lot of these pastors.Absolutely, you told me these paintings ten

(26:02):
did you say ten thousand dollars?Ten thousand dollars? So you you give
them freely every event, every year, when you host this event, this
Visible Portraits of Light, you givethe portrait to the pasters. So I'm
not giving them for the pastor.I knew you were going to say,
go for it, go ahead,go ahead. No, the community.

(26:25):
I'm a servant just like the pastors. And so what we do is we
have a nomination process and people inthe community nominate pastors that they would like
to have me to paint a portraitof who they believe are lights in the
community. Yeah, and so thenonce they go through the nomination process,
then it's a voting process, andthe ones with the top twelve of the

(26:48):
top twelve are the ones that Ipaint and there they are. Usually it's
in May where the voting and maybethe latter part of May early June,
but by mid June we know whothe honorees will be for the upcoming year
because it's a process. The firsttime we did it, we had five

(27:10):
hundred people to participate in the votingand they picked the first twelve honorees.
So this year, guess how manywe had to vote? Over five thousand.
It was right at five thousand.I do that because you told me
that. Yeah, we had fivethousand people to vote. And let me

(27:38):
tell you about the voting. Eachperson could only vote once, but they
could vote for their top three,which gives a lot opportunity for smaller congregations
of their pastors to also be apart of this process. So if you're

(27:59):
doing some amazing positive and you mayhave a small congregation, your light is
shining beyond your congregation. So sothe community is giving the portrait to the
Yes, but I'm just done bymister Walker. It's ten thousand dollars.
Let that sink in. You guysare being a blessing to the community in

(28:21):
that way, and let that sinkin. Okay, that's how talented his
hands. Go to what's your Facebookpage? You said? A lot of
people see your work on the Facebookpage. Yes, Larry Walker, okay,
Larry Walker. Yes, well youtube it's the amazing mister Walker.

(28:42):
Okay, But on Facebook you're LarryWalker, right, And is it a
fan page or is it just apage? It's just a page. But
my email, I'm sorry, notemail, website is the it's amazing mister
waller Walker dot com. I'm lookingamazing Walker dot com. So I googled

(29:06):
you, well, not Google,but I searched you on Facebook. Put
in Larry Walker, and I justsent you a friend request. By the
way, okay, and we're almostrunning out of time. I got about
a minute. But I'm looking atthe likeness of some of these portraits and
the work. It's mind blowing,y'all. Go find him on social media

(29:30):
and on YouTube and just see theamazing work that mister Walker is doing.
You we got to live in legendin our city, y'all. That needs
to be honored as such. Sothank you for coming and your wife,
because y'all are teams, so we'llbe honored together. I just I just
think you're awesome, just just amazing. I appreciate you, you know,

(29:52):
for having us, and we're we'reexcited. We love Memphis, want to
paint a great picture of Memphis,and we want Memphis to shine. So
this is yes. You know whenyou google Pastor, when you googled Mayor
Harrington a moment ago, and younotice the portrait did not come up,

(30:15):
that's how intentional. That's why Itell people to go to my website because
I got video. I got itLarry Walker dot com. Amazing, amazing,
mister Walker dot com. There yougo. That's it. That's going
to do it, y'all. I'mstormy. It's the pulse, keeping our

(30:37):
fingertips on the pulse of our community. Mister Walker, missus Walker, thank
you again for coming on the show. Y'all. Look him up find out
more about Visible Portraits of Light.The event is happening this year, but
if you follow him on social media, you can learn more about what's going
to happen next year. In caseyou missed this year, it's this Sunday.

(31:00):
Doors open at three and it happensat four. And where's it again,
The Memphis Renaissance Convincing Center downtown.There you go, Thank you guys
again. We keep our fingertips onthe pulse of our community. I'm Stormy,
y'all have a great week. I'llsee you next week, same time,
same place. God bless you.
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