After earning his degree in 1953, Walker was called as pastor at historic Gillfield Baptist Church, the second oldest black church in Petersburg, Virginia and one of the oldest in the nation.
Walker's civil rights leadership extended to two major civil rights organizations in Virginia: he served as president for five years of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and as state director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which he co-founded in 1958. Through these years Walker became increasingly close to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement. He later served as his Chief of Staff. In 1957, Walker helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Over the last decade, he has emerged as the nation's
foremost authority on the
music of the African-American religious experience by the sheer dint of his
productivity and dogged research. Following the publication of his landmark
work, "Somebody's Calling My Name," which is considered a classic in many
quarters, five additional works in the field of ethnomusicology have come from
his pen. The three-volume "Spirits that Dwell in Deep Woods," has been hailed
as pioneer work, which he continues to pursue. In 2004, he returned to Virginia and now teaches in the School of Theology at Virginia Union University.