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*Albertina Walker was born on this date in 1929. She was a Black gospel singer, songwriter, actress, and humanitarian.
Albertina Walker was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Ruben and Camille Coleman Walker. Her mother was from Houston County, Georgia, and her father was from Bibb County, Georgia. They moved to Chicago between 1917-1920, where they lived out their lives. Young Albertina had four siblings born in Bibb County and four born in Chicago.
She began singing early in the West Point Baptist Church youth choir and joined several Gospel groups, including Pete Williams Singers, The Willie Webb Singers, and the Robert Anderson Singers. She was greatly influenced by her friend and confidante, Mahalia Jackson, who took Walker on the road with her as a teenager. "Mahalia used to kid me. She'd say, 'Girl, you need to sing by yourself,'" recalled Walker in a 2010 Washington Post interview.
In the early 1950s, Walker founded her Gospel music group, The Caravans, enlisting fellow singers from The Robert Anderson Singers (Ora Lee Hopkins, Elyse Yancey, and Nellie Grace Daniels). The Caravans' membership has included: James Cleveland, Bessie Griffin, Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood, Inez Andrews, Loleatta Holloway, John McNeil, Cassietta George, and Delores Washington. Her discovery of these artists resulted in the nickname "Star Maker." Walker retired from The Caravans in the late 1960s, performing as a solo artist. Walker was popularly referred to as the "Queen of Gospel Music" for her outstanding achievements within the genre after the death of Mahalia Jackson in 1972.
In the mid-1970s, Walker signed with Savoy Records. Benson Records, Word Records, A&M Records, and other record companies, recording a series of solo projects, many of them with big church choirs, including The Evangelical Choir, The Cathedral of Love Choir, The Metro Mass choir, and her church choir, The West Point Choir. Albertina recorded her first solo project, Put a Little Love in Your Heart, in 1975. She also recorded several projects together with Reverend James Cleveland. To date, she has recorded over 60 albums, including gold-selling hits "Please Be Patient With Me," "I Can Go to God in Prayer," "The Best Is Yet to Come," "Impossible Dream," and "Joy Will Come."
Walker sang for American presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and South Africa's president, Nelson Mandela. In 1995, Walker joined Thelma Houston, CeCe Peniston, Phoebe Snow, and Lois Walden to record a gospel album in common, Good News in Hard Times, as the quintet called The Sisters of Glory. Walker recorded a reunion album with her group, The Caravans, entitled Paved the Way, released by Malaco Records on September 5, 2006. The album was dubbed by Billboard magazine as one of the most memorable releases that year, remaining in the top forty for sixteen weeks, and nominated for a Grammy, Dove, Soul Train Music Award, and two Stellar Awards.
On her 81st birthday, Walker was admitted to a local Chicago Hospital and placed on a ventilator. For some time, she had been battling emphysema. In early September, rumors of Walker’s death had spread so wildly that she posted a message on her Facebook page stating: "I'm still here no matter what you might have heard" At the time, she was in ICU dealing with respiratory problems–a condition she battled for years, and kept her on oxygen. On Tuesday, September 7, Walker had a tracheostomy which doctors deemed a success, and she checked out of a Chicago hospital in late September. She was admitted to RML specialty hospital for follow-up care. She died on October 8, 2010.