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College of Arts & Sciences
Walker Institute

Bio of Dr. Walker

Biographical information on Dr. Richard Louis Walker (April 13, 1922 - July 22, 2003)

Picture of Dr. Richard Walker

During an illustrious career spanning decades and continents, Ambassador Richard L. Walker demonstrated an unending commitment to international awareness through education and diplomatic service. Walker’s experiences in the military, academia, and the political arena contributed to a deep appreciation and understanding of Asian culture, making him “one of the world’s foremost China/Asia experts over the last 50 years” (Air Force Association, 2000). His extensive knowledge of Asian affairs, grounded in both the classroom and in practice, served him well in throughout a career that garnered him numerous accolades, including the highest civilian decoration by the Department of Defense for outstanding service as ambassador to the Republic of Korea. In a letter to Walker, President Reagan praised his efforts, noting “You have turned quiet diplomacy into an art form, and your actions have improved bilateral relations by serving the interests of both the U.S. and ROK.”

Walker received his Bachelor’s Degree in Arts in Historical and Political Science in 1943 from the Drew University of Madison, New Jersey. After serving in the Army as an interpreter with General McArthur’s headquarters during World War II and earning a certificate in Chinese Language and Area from the University of Pennsylvania, Walker returned to academia. Pursuing his interest in Asia, Walker received an MA in Far Eastern and Russian Studies and a PhD in International Relations from Yale University.

Walker spent the next twenty-five years making an impact in the classroom as a professor of international affairs, with a focus on East Asia. Before bringing his expertise to the University of South Carolina, Walker held professorial posts at prestigious institutions across the United States, including Yale University, the University of Washington, National War College in Washington D.C., and the Institute of International Relations in Hawaii. In 1957, Walker became a faculty member at the University of South Carolina after being from the Army War College by USC president Donald Russell with the goal of establishing a new international studies program at USC. In 1959, Walker received USC’s first endowed professorship, designating him James F. Byrnes Professor of International Relations. Walker founded the Institute of International Studies in 1961 and acted as head of the department until 1972. In 1994, the Institute of International Studies became the Walker Institute in honor of his service to the University. 

From 1981-1986, Walker served as the Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, the highlight of which was a State Visit by President Reagan and his wife, Nancy. After his successful service as an ambassador, he returned to the USC and retired as the James. F. Byrnes Professor Emeritus of International Studies and Ambassador-in-Residence at the University.

Promoting understanding and sharing knowledge did not cease with his retirement. Outside the university, the prominent author and community figure continued to make an impact. Throughout his career, Walker published seventeen books, with his last work, Korean Remembrances published in 1998. Walker additionally participated in numerous professional advocacy and academic organizations. He served on the boards for groups such as the American Bureau for Medical Advancement in China, the American-Asian Educational Exchange, the University of South Carolina Educational Foundation, the National Committee on United State-China Relations, the Conference on European Problems, and the United States Strategic Institute. From 1995 to 1997, he was president of the American Association for China Studies.

He was academically active until he passed on July 22, 2003 in Columbia, South Carolina.


**Note: Most of the information on this Bibliographical note has been sourced from the following website: If you are interested in learning more about Richard R. Walker’s life and achievements, please visit this website.