COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Vice President Kamala Harris’ swearing in marks a historic day in our country as she is the first woman and first person of color to become second in command of the United States.
Generations of women watched, hoped, and waited for this day, including another “first” who calls Columbus home.
Ann Walker will turn 98 this fall. The East High graduated broke barriers at Channel 4 (later known as NBC 4) and broke barriers serving in a White House administration.
Walker has seen a lot in her 97 years.
“I had hoped, like many countries abroad, that we would have a woman serving as the president and I remember feeling very strongly and being supportive of Shirley Chisholm when she ran, so we’re just one step below,” Walker said.
She was excited to see Harris take the office of vice president.
“If our elected officials are willing to work together, regardless of party, I think that the changes will benefit all of the citizens,” Walker said.
Walker said she votes on issues based on value, not political party.
She pointed to 2016 when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, announced he would not consider any of President Barack Obama’s nominees for the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
McConnell pushed that until after the election, which was still some nine months away.
Now Walker knows a thing or two about “working for the people.” In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her special assistant to the director of the White House Public Affairs Office.
“You know what I say? Somebody wanted me out of town,” she said with a laugh. “Our department was responsible for making contacts with various groups and preparing materials for various groups, telling the Carter story.”
In the 1960s, Walker worked at Columbus’ WVKO radio, where she was the assistant news director over community services and a host.
In the 1970s, she came to Channel 4, becoming its community services director, the first woman in broadcast management at the station.
The years saw her as a host, a journalist, and a writer, often the only woman or person of color in the room.
Walker said it was her upbringing that motivated her to find success.
“I was the only girl with five brothers,” she said. “My mother died when I was quite young, so my father raised us, and as in any minority, in the teaching and the training, minority goes with the majority. I was taught as the boys were taught, to look a man in the eye and have a firm handshake, to be more concerned with being right than what somebody thinks of you.”
Walker has some advice for the new vice president when it comes to the naysayers.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “Don’t waste a minute worrying about it because she knows personally what she’s capable of doing.”
Walker, like Harris, is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She still sits on a number of boards, and said her proudest moment as a member of NBC 4 is creating an internship program.
Walker is in the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame as the first women broadcaster to report on the Ohio legislature.
Among other things, she once served on the Columbus Consumer Protection Committee.