|CYRUS HERBERT WALKER
April 11, 1886 - 1940
|LAAAGS Celebrates Lansing's 150 Years
"Early settlers of the Lansing area were drawn by the prospect of using their skills in at least
two industries: the construction and trades markets and the automobile factories." (Daughter:
Betty Walker Brooks)
Lansing had been selected as the Capitol of Michigan and craftsmen were being sought to
construct the buildings that would further develop the new capitol city. Cyrus Herbert Walker
and his father, John Henry Walker, brought their skills as bricklayers to Lansing from Flint,
Michigan, in 1898.
John Henry Walker taught his son, Cyrus, the bricklaying trade when Cyrus was 12 years old.
At the age of 29 Cyrus was employed by the H. G. Christman Co. of Lansing, Michigan. One of
the buildings on which he laid bricks was the old Pattengill Jr. High School on Jerome Street in
When Herbert became an employee of the H. G. Christman Company in 1915 both he and his
father were employed in the construction of buildings on the campus of the Michigan Agricultural
College (MAC presently Michigan State University). Also surfacing in Lansing at that time, were
the names of other African-Americans in the skilled trades, George Eaton a brick mason, Jack
Stevenson and his brother, Hughie Stevenson, both brick -masons and their brother Andy, a
plasterer. In addition, Raymond Riddle, who came with his sister, Allie Cooper from Canada,
became an apprentice to learn the brick-laying trade, and was assigned to Herbert Walker.
Raymond Riddle taught the trade to his sons. Some of the buildings on which they worked, still
Cyrus Herbert Walker was recruited to lay brick on many other job sites, in other Michigan
cities. One such job took him to Alma, Michigan, where he met Nellie Ann (Wilson) Sharp whom
he later married. Herbert and Nellie reared two sons, and two daughters, Edwina (Betty), Eulalia
(Layla), John H. (Jack) as well as Kenneth, a son of Nellie's from a previous marriage.
The 1920 United States Census lists the family of Cyrus H. Walker, wife Nellie A, son, Kenneth
and daughter Edwina (Betty), residing at 732 Clark Street, Lansing Township, Ingham County,
7th Ward of the city.
In addition to the pride that Cyrus' daughter felt for her father, Betty Walker describes her
mother in love and admiration as a gentle lady, dainty, but the most aggressive female of her
time. "Nothing for her was impossible." She recalls when African American women were not
invited to join the Women's Clubhouse, located on S. Washington Ave. in Lansing, MI. Mrs.
Nellie Walker joined and participated in the events at the Clubhouse. Mrs. R.E. Olds, wife of the
founder of the Oldsmobile Automobile Industry was one of Nellie's compatriots.
Their children and grandchildren became successful and productive members of the Lansing
community, working within state government, practicing in the professions, education, the
arts, and technical areas.
The older daughter of Cyrus and Nellie Walker, Betty Walker Brooks on her retirement as a
manager of Training and Development for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT),
was honored and recognized with the naming of a Scenic Turnout Roadside Park on the Westside
of US-131, eight miles south of Cadillac, Michigan, in Osceola County. Layla Walker Taylor was
an organist and Master of Music. Jack Walker, became a General Foreman, Director of
Production and Human Resources Administrator in the General Motors Corporation in Lansing,
EXCERPTS FROM BIOGRAPHICAL/ HISTORICAL DATA, WRITTEN FOR LAAAGS, BY BETTY WALKER BROOKS IN DEDICATION AND
MEMORY OF HER PARENTS, CYRUS AND NELLIE WALKER