Maben school grad made pro baseball player

By Terry Harpole
For the WPT

MABEN — The old O. L. Wicks School on Highway 15 North for years has
sat empty and in a bad physical shape, as many schools will do when
they are closed. However, it has special memories for many, including
the few people in the area who might have known the late Elon Walker.

Born Nov. 19, 1935, in Michigan to Guy Walker and Annie A. Bell, he
and his parents moved to Starkville when he was young.

When Walker became school age, while living in Starkville, he chose
to go to Webster-Oktibbeha County School in Maben some 20 miles away.

Dr. Fenton Peters, retired Starkville School District superintendant,
says he learned Walker chose the all-black school in Maben because it
had a baseball team and the black school in Starkville did not.

Walker attended and graduated from Oktibbeha-Webster elementary and
high school, and received athletic awards.

O.L. Wicks, who was then principal of the school, was living one
block west of Walker. He and his wife, a teacher, took a special
interest in the student and began bringing him to school, as some
days he loved baseball so much he would walk most of the way to school.

Walker’s half-brother, Clarence Carlisle from Starkville, who was 12
years younger, says he does not remember his brother’s playing
baseball because he was so much younger but had heard the stories
from his parents.

After high school, Walker received a letter from Burl Lee Smith of
the Negro League baseball camp based in Pine Bluff, Ark., to come up
for an interview and a tryout. Walker was recruited by many teams but
played for the Memphis Red Sox.

While playing, he was backup pitcher for Sledge native and future
country music singer Charley Pride. Walker’s nicknames were
“Whomperjack” or “Whompercat,” and “Lefty” since he was a left-handed
baseball pitcher.

After Pride left the Memphis Red Sox to enter the music business, he
remained special friends with Walker and corresponded with him on a
regular basis. Pride kept letters from Walker in his baseball bag,
along with other baseball treasures.

Walker died of cardiac arrest on April 8, 2008, at age 72.

On Feb. 23, the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum in Starkville opened
for an exhibit viewing on Walker and Starkville-native baseball hall
of fame player James “Cool Papa” Bell in honor of Black History
Month. The museum now has a personal letter of correspondence from
Pride to Walker.