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Our History: Featured Alumni/ae: Walker, James A., 1855

Over the decades our graduates have developed distinguished careers as justices, members of Congress, ambassadors, educators, business people, and community leaders in many fields. This site features some of those late graduates.

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James Alexander Walker

Brigadier General, Confederate Army; Lt. Governor of Virginia; Congressman from Virginia

James A. Walker was born near Mount Meridian in Augusta County, Virginia on August 27, 1832. He attended private schools as a youth and attended Virginia Military Institute. Then, he studied law at the University of Virginia in 1854 and 1855 before being admitted to the bar the following year. He established a successful law practice in Newbern in Pulaski County. 

With the outbreak of the Civil War and Virginia's eventual secession, Walker entered the Confederate Army in April 1861 as captain of the "Pulaski Guards", which soon became Company C of the 4th Virginia Infantry. In July 1861, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assigned to the 13th Virginia Infantry. Walker was again promoted, this time to colonel, in March 1862, leading his regiment in several actions. Walker was an acting brigade commander at the Battle of Antietam. He was promoted to brigadier general and assigned command of the Stonewall Brigade in May 1863, leading it during the Gettysburg Campaign, where his regiment participated in the attacks on Culp's Hill. He was badly wounded at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House in 1864 and sent home to recuperate. Late in the war, Walker was assigned command of a division of Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia.

When the war ended in 1865, Walker returned to his law practice and political career, being elected as a Democrat to the House of Delegates of Virginia in 1871 and 1872. VMI granted him an honorary degree in 1872 in recognition of his Civil War service. Five years later, he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. In 1893, Walker switched allegiances and joined the Republican Party. He was elected to the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Congresses, serving from 1895 until 1899. During his second term, Walker served as chairman of the Committee on Elections. In 1898, Walker was defeated for re-election. Walker was also a charter member of The Virginia Bar Association in 1890. He died in Wytheville, Virginia in 1901 and was buried in the town's East End Cemetery.

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