Public defender dies

By Cindy Simpson
Joe WalkerThe Ninth Judicial District’s first public defender died Wednesday after taking a dramatic turn for the worst with a serious infection.

Joe Walker, who was appointed Roane County’s first public defender almost 25 years ago, had the position ever since, including after a 1991 accident which left both him and his son Andrew without use of their limbs.

“He had an unwavering commitment to the public and to us, really,” said Assistant Public Defender Walter Johnson, who worked for Walker since 1992.

“He was a great mentor to me, one of the great attorneys,” said Johnson. “He was the most brilliant person.”

Johnson appreciated Walker’s ability to listen to others.

“Attorneys are famous for having opinions, and everyone likes their own. He had his, too, now, but he could listen to you,” said Johnson.

He also appreciated that Walker trusted in his staff. “He believed in hiring good people and letting them do their job without interference. He stood behind us all the way,” Johnson said.

Harriman attorney Bill Newcomb saw Walker as independent. “Joe was a strong individualist, and usually what he told you, you could depend on,” Newcomb said.

Criminal Court Judge Eugene Eblen said Walker was the right man for the job when he was appointed all those years ago to start the public defender’s office. “Even with his handicap, he was a good public defender,” Eblen said.

His family saw him as a family man who supported his children and gave back to the community. “He lived a Christian life,” his son Andrew said. “He did not tell you. He showed you.” “If I could have been the man my Dad was, there wouldn’t be a greater honor.”

Walker had served on the Harriman Hospital Board and was active with Harriman United Methodist Church.

Arrangements were not complete with Kyker Funeral Home in Harriman at press time Thursday.