As Washington State University’s first African American graduate, Jessie Senora Sims Walker paved the way for minority students at WSU. A 1913 graduate of what was then the School of Pharmacy of Washington State College, Walker transferred from Spokane College to WSU. Born in Talladega, Alabama, she graduated from Tuskegee High School in Alabama before moving to Spokane and attending WSC.
As a student at WSC, Jessie was an officer in both the State College Pharmaceutical Association and the Columbian Literary Society. She was also a member of the State Pharmaceutical Association and a member of the first sorority created by African Americans, Alpha Kappa Alpha. The sorority, which today is open to all races, has student chapters in many U.S. universities and colleges. Although she worked in a Pullman pharmacy during her student days, the racial climate of the time prevented her from practicing as a professional pharmacist until several decades after graduation.
After earning her pharmacy degree, she married Harry L. Walker. They lived in Seattle and later moved to Tacoma, and Jessie became well known for a food catering business she operated out of her home. Walker later went on to lead a successful career as a pharmacist in Tacoma.
In 1964, Walker was honored as a distinguished alumna of the College of Pharmacy in a special ceremony in Spokane. A member of Tacoma’s Allen AME Church, she died at age 87 in Tacoma on May 17, 1978.
In 1991, College of Pharmacy Dean Mahmoud M. Abdel-Monem and his wife Judy established a student scholarship fund in her name to honor Walker’s commitment to the provision of health care to all people, and her deep and abiding love for her alma mater. Bill Gaskins, pharmacy class of 1968, and his wife Felicia, class of 1973, are working to ensure that the Jessie Senora Sims Walker scholarship endowment is fully funded.
If you are interested in helping this effort, please give to Jessie’s scholarship.
—Information courtesy of WSU Libraries and the College of Pharmacy
[Lori J. Maricle] 1/1/16