John Grimes Walker (20 March 1835 – 16 September 1907) was an admiral in the United States Navy who served during the Civil War. After the war, he served as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation and head of the Lighthouse Board. In retirement, he led commissions to investigate the construction of a Central American canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Early life and career
Born in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, Walker was appointed a midshipman on 5 October 1850 and graduated at the head of his class at the Naval Academy in 1856.
He served in Falmouth and St. Lawrence in 1858 and 1859; in Susquehanna in 1860 and 1861; in Connecticut in 1861; and in Winona in 1861 and 1862.
Civil War service
Walker distinguished himself under David Dixon Porter during the Mississippi River campaigns while serving in Winona, Baron de Kalb (which he commanded), and Saco. He participated in the engagements with Forts St. Philip and Jackson, as well as the Chalmette batteries during the operations which resulted in the fall of New Orleans.
He later took part in the Navy's operations against Vicksburg. During the winter of 1862 and 1863, Walker participated in the thrusts against Haines Bluff and Arkansas Post. He also took part in the Yazoo Pass expedition, the attack on Fort Pemberton, and the capture of Yazoo City.
At the siege of Vicksburg, Walker commanded the naval gun battery attached to the 15th Army Corps. His subsequent war service included operations which resulted in the capture of Fort Fisher, and he participated in the ensuing bombardments of Forts Anderson and Caswell on the Cape Fear River and in the capture of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Post-Civil War service
Promoted to commander in 1866, Walker served as Assistant Superintendent of the Naval Academy from 1866 to 1869. After commanding Sabine in 1869 and 1870—during which time he took the ship to Europe on a midshipman training cruise—he served as secretary to the Lighthouse Board from 1873 to 1878. From 1881 to 1889, Walker held the post of Chief of the Bureau of Navigation before he went to sea commanding the White Squadron in 1889, with his flag in Chicago.
Appointed rear admiral in 1894, he took the White Squadron to Hawaii in 1895 when a coup d'etat posed a threat to American interests. He received a commendation for his attitude of watchful waiting and his squadron's posture of readiness to respond to a possible emergency.
Upon his return to shore duty in 1896, he headed the Lighthouse Board and concurrently chaired the committee investigating locations for deep-water harbors in southern California.
Soon after retiring as a full admiral in 1897, Walker was chosen to serve as President of the Nicaragua Canal Commission. Two years later, in 1899, he was appointed President of the Isthmian Canal Commission to look into possible routes for a canal across the Central American isthmus.
Admiral Walker died at the age of 72, at Ogunquit, Maine.
Two destroyers have been named USS Walker in his honor.
- This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.