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*George Walker’s birth is celebrated on this date in 1873. He was a Black vaudevillian, actor, and producer.
George W. Walker was born in Lawrence, Kansas, the son of a policeman and his wife. He began his career as a child performer, touring in Black minstrel and medicine shows. In 1893, in San Francisco, Walker at the age of 20 met Bert Williams, who was a year younger. The two young men became performing partners. Walker and Williams appeared in The Gold Bug (1895), Clorindy (1898), The Policy Player (1899), Sons of Ham (1900), In Dahomey (1903), Abyssinia (1906), and Bandanna Land (1907). Walker married dancer Aida Overton, who later also was a choreographer.
The two men set up an agency, The Williams and Walker Company, to support Black actors and other performers, create networking, and produce new works. The two men decided to subvert vaudeville stereotypes and play against their appearances. With lighter skin expressing some European ancestry, and a fine voice, by the expectations of the time Williams would have performed as the "straight man" in comedy routines. Williams was very talented, and he played all instruments. Walker had darker skin and was a great comedian and dancer. He would be expected to play the fool.
The two realized that they were much funnier when they reversed their roles, so "...Walker became the straight man--dressed a little too high-style and spending all the money he could borrow or trick out of the lazy, careless, unlucky Williams--and Williams became the sorrowful, comical-in-spite-of-himself patsy." While touring with Bandanna Land in 1909, Walker began to stutter and suffer memory loss. He died on January 8, 1911. He was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery, in his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas.