Remembering Renowned Race Scholar Ronald Walters

Ronald Walters, a celebrated scholar of race and politics in America, has died of cancer at the age of 72. One of the principal architects of Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns, Walter was a familiar voice to many NPR listeners for his insights on the politics of race.

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We learned over the weekend, of the death of Ron Walters, a familiar voice on this program and many others - both a scholar of race and politics and a practitioner. He was one of the principal architects of the presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson.

Ron Walters joined us tonight the, then-Senator, Barack Obama clinched the Democratic nomination for president, something he said he never expected to see in his lifetime, especially after his experience on the Jackson campaigns.

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Dr. RONALD WALTERS (Former Government and Politics Professor, University of Maryland): People are not aware of the fact that with the tremendous effort of Reverend Jackson. He arrived at the Democratic Convention with over 1,200 delegates and a very formidable showing. And so, for someone like Barack Obama to have reached this point, one has to ask, is this simply an investment in Barack Obama?

I've concluded that it really isn't, that what you're looking at here is the fact that he has hit a deep vein, in the American people, of change. And the American people said it in the 2006 election cycle by changing the control of the Congress of the United States, from Republican to Democrat. And they've also said it in some of the special elections. And so they have been telling us that there is this deep desire for change.

Barack Obama showed up. He built a campaign around it. He was able to articulate it successfully. And I think that really was - has been the key to his success.

CONAN: Activist, professor and sometime pol, Ron Walters, died of cancer last week at the age of 72. We're going to miss him.

If you'd like to find out more about his long and accomplished career, our own Ken Rudin wrote about him on his Political Junkie blog. Just go to

Tomorrow, women in music. Suzanne Vega will be our guest. Join us. This is TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

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