Overcome a Difficult Past with Integrity and Respect


Editor’s Note: Each year during the Christmas-New Years season, the Reporter-News posts stories about residents of Abilene and Big Country who quietly help others and their communities. This “Everyday Hero” series begins with Johnny Walker.

Johnny Walker said he heard all the jokes about his name. He is happy to laugh about it.

But his laughter hasn’t always been a part of his life. For a long time, his situation was serious.

Walker, of Abilene, is not your typical “everyday hero”. He made mistakes and paid his debt to society. But this debt has helped him become a new force for good in the world he lives in.

“Integrity,” he said of what makes an everyday hero in his mind. “It’s about doing the right thing when no one is watching. When you rely on that (mindset), you go out in public carrying it with you. People can look at you in a certain way. They can wear it. judgments.

“I’m just trying to be as godly and sane as possible.”

Wrong place, wrong time

Walker, 56, grew up in Haskell, a product of a single-parent family.

Working since the age of 13, Walker said he had to drop out of high school, but got his general education diploma to try and improve his situation.

“My mom had a heart attack and someone had to be the breadwinner,” he said.

But his desperation and the circumstances of his life got him into the wrong crowds, he said. And he paid the price.

One day he was invited to a party, he said. While at home, one thing led to another and Walker was arrested and charged with burglary of a home.

He spent over 16 years in prison for the offense. He said the county he was in decided to prosecute him “to make an example” of him.

But, he says, he doesn’t dwell on it. He describes the situation as “a total lack of judgment”.

He has since changed his life, in part thanks to his current employer, Goodwill-West Texas.

“Sometimes it takes people longer than others to realize a path in life,” Walker said.

With integrity

Walker said he started in the nonprofit as a production worker. A few months later, he became a leader.

His next promotion, six months later, he was appointed deputy director. And the recognition within Goodwill did not stop there.

About four months ago, Walker was appointed director of the region’s operations donation services unit. This placed him atop the larger section of Goodwill-West Texas operations.

It’s a clear indication that his past doesn’t define Walker’s present.

But what makes him an everyday hero?

Vance Cooksey, a community volunteer, submitted Walker’s name for consideration because Walker operates every day with “respect, attitude, ethics, learning, innovation and, perhaps the MVP in the mix, recognizing and promoting. his confidence, his talents, his skills, his creativity and a smile and a personality that makes Johnny, well, Johnny, and no one else. “

Walker understands that his life story may not be accepted by many others. But the only way forward for him is to be honest, he said, and respectful.

Maybe, just maybe, he can pave the way for someone else in a similar situation, he said.

“I overcame adversity,” he said. “I know that if I met a man or a woman who went through a similar situation, I can be a catalyst. If I can do it, if I can take control of my life, (them) can too. be that we can lower the recidivism rate. “

Timothy Chipp covers education and is a general assignment reporter for Abilene Reporter-News. If you value local news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.


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