By GEORGE E. CURRY
Around this time every year, shortly before I leave to visit my mother in Augusta, Ga., for Christmas, I attend a party at the home of Pat and Ron Walters in Silver Spring, Md. I attended the annual party Saturday night with one noticeable difference – it was held without Ron, an enormously talented strategist and political scientist.
Ron died of cancer Sept. 10, 2010, and to her credit, Pat decided to hold the party this year because she knew that’s what her Ronnie, as she calls him, would have wanted. It’s also what his friends wanted. We wanted to let Pat know that although her Ronnie has passed from this earth, we still feel his presence.
I wrote shortly after Ron died that he was a one-man civil rights movement. And he was. More than that, the distinguished professor who served at Howard University and the University of Maryland taught us how to use our professional skills to improve the plight of our people. In that respect, he was very much like W.E.B. DuBois, who like Ron, did his undergraduate work at Fisk University in Nashville.
Ron was quoted more than any other political scientist of his time. He could have opted to teach his university classes and be a talking head on national TV, but he didn’t. He felt obligated to do more, which explains why he quietly advised the Congressional Black Caucus on a variety of issues. It explains why he served as Jesse Jackson’s presidential issues adviser in 1984 and 1988.
Those of us who covered that first campaign witnessed how Ron prepared Jesse Jackson for TV debates. Ron would be hovering above and Jackson, outstretched on the floor in blue jeans, would listen to Professor Walters, process the information, and then restate it in his own unique way. Those prep sessions were so detailed that Jackson never had a Rick Perry-like ooops moment in any debate.
Unlike some public intellectuals, he was not enamored with rap. He didn’t record a rap CD, like Cornel West, or teach a course on Jay-Z, like Michael Eric Dyson. When it came to the empowerment of African Americans, Ron Walters was serious. Very serious.
Above all else, Ron Walters was consistent. It didn’t matter if Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Barack Obama was in the White House. You could count on Ron holding them all to one standard: What have you done for Black people? And he wasn’t content with words, he wanted to measure how well policies had helped – or harmed – people of African descent.
His take-home tests for political leaders, Black and White, usually covered 10 subjects: health disparities, police brutality, equal access to education, voting rights enforcement, racial profiling, housing, equal employment, ex-offenders’ voting rights, access to credit, and economic justice.
And Ron didn’t believe President Obama should be allowed to skip the test or be judged any differently from anyone else who occupied the