SAN ANTONIO – Texas Daily Newspaper Association past president W. Lawrence (Larry) Walker Jr., retired publisher of the San Antonio Express-News, died June 24. He was 79.
A longtime leader in the newspaper industry, Walker served as publisher and chief executive officer of the San Antonio Express-News from 1990 to 2006, through a change of ownership and the start of its transition from a print product to the addition of multiple platforms online. He became chairman in 2006 and stepped down at the end of that year.
A native of Milan, Georgia, and a 1964 graduate of the University of Georgia with a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting, he first worked as an accountant for a utility company and later with a CPA firm.
He began his newspaper career of nearly four decades as a financial executive with Knight Newspapers, Inc., in the early 1970s. Walker built a reputation as a savvy executive, first at his hometown paper, the Macon Telegraph & News, followed by successful stints at the Milledgeville Union Recorder and the Gary Post Tribune in Indiana.
In 1981, he was named executive vice president and business manager of the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, a joint operation that published both the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner. The family remained on the west coast until moving to San Antonio in 1990.
In April 1990, Walker was named associate publisher of the San Antonio Express-News. He became publisher when the late Charles O. Kilpatrick retired from that role on Sept. 30, 1990.
Walker was “a warm and valued friend to many of us,” said Frank A Bennack Jr., executive vice chairman and former CEO of Hearst who was the Light’s publisher from 1967 to 1974. “He served our San Francisco newspapers with his characteristic skill and enthusiasm, and then, somewhat unusually, we saw him as formidable competitor and then as an able and devoted colleague in San Antonio.”
Walker was honored by TDNA in 2000 as Newspaper Leader of the Year with the Pat Taggart Award. He served as TDNA president in 2005 as well as in other capacities.
During his years in San Antonio, Walker served on more than 25 civic bodies. He and his wife Caroline were members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. They also ran a number of community and charity events. They founded the Book & Author Luncheon, which raised money for the University of Texas Health Science Center at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center in San Antonio.
Walker also co-founded For the Love of Kids & Harleys, which raised funds for local charities that serve children in the San Antonio area.
He also helped develop sports programs through Bexar County and South Texas. He was the Tri Chair of the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame for 12 years.
He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Caroline, two children, four grandchildren and other relatives.
Services were held June 30 at the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.