Margaret Sellers Walker
Born in South Carolina in 1935, Margaret Regular’s family took part in the Great Migration when they moved north to Detroit, Michigan, so her father could work in an automobile factory. After working many years at the Detroit Public Library, Margaret pursued her career in other Michigan cities. She became the first African American and the first woman to be head of personnel at the state department of natural resources. Eventually she came to Grand Rapids to take positions in state government and then at Grand Valley State University. She gave back to her community by volunteering her time for a number of community organizations.
Margaret Regular was born in South Carolina, September 28, 1935. Her parents, Annie and Daniel, moved to Detroit in 1945, where her father worked in an automobile factory. Margaret grew up in Detroit and graduated from Northeastern High School in 1951 when she was sixteen. She then went to work as a page at the Detroit Public Library and enrolled at Wayne State University. Two years later, she married Thomas Sellers, left college, and had two daughters. In 1963, she returned to the library and the university. Margaret earned a bachelor's degree from Wayne State University. She worked at the library until 1977, ending as director of personnel.
She next became director of personnel at Wayne County Community College and then, in 1980, moved to Lansing to become the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ personnel director. She was the first woman and the first black person to serve in this post for the DNR. She completed a master's degree in public administration from Western Michigan University in 1983.
In 1986, she moved to Grand Rapids to work for the city of Grand Rapids. Although her husband died of lung cancer six months after she started the Grand Rapids job, she stayed with it until 1993. By 1993, she was assistant city manager. From 1993 to 2002, Sellers Walker served as an assistant professor in the School of Public Administration at Grand Valley State University. She joined the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership in 1997 and was associate director from 2002 to 2006.
A black woman who broke barriers to pursue a professional career, Margaret Sellers Walker’s path brought her to Grand Rapids. She obtained high positions in city government and at Grand Valley State University. She also served on boards and otherwise volunteered her time for a variety of community organizations.
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
Sellers Walker volunteered her time for a wide variety of community organizations. She was on the committee to find a new director for the art museum in 1995. She was co-chair of the Citizens for the Grand Rapids Public Library Committee to promote the 1997 millage. She also co-chaired the committee that purchased Wealthy Theatre for the Community Media Center. She served on the boards of Dwelling Place, Blodgett Hospital, Delta Strategies, Hope Network, Inc., Clark Retirement Community, friends of Grand Rapids Community College, and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.
Key Related Ideas
A child of the Great Migration, Margaret Regular was born in the south in the midst of the Great Depression. Her family moved north to Detroit where her father found work in an automobile factory. After working many years at the Detroit Public Library, her career eventually brought her to Grand Rapids. She broke barriers as a black woman along her way. She gave back to her community especially through volunteerism.
Important People Related to the Topic
Dorothy A. Johnson: Ms Johnson served as president of the Council of Michigan Foundations for 25 years. She was also president of the Community Foundation Youth Project and a trustee of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Grand Valley State University Board. Ms. Johnson is also a commissioner, advisor, and board member of many state, regional, and national organizations.
Related Nonprofit Organizations
- Grand Rapids Art Museum collects, conserves, educates, and interprets art in order to enrich visitors of all ages and backgrounds. https://www.artmuseumgr.org/
- Grand Rapids Public Library has eight urban locations and strives to be the community's foremost source for information, viewpoints, resources and programs. https://www.grpl.org/
- Wealthy Theatre is owned by the Grand Rapids Community Media Center. The CMC acquires and maintains technology tools, media services, and community venues such as the theatre to benefit local citizens. https://grcmc.org/theatre
- The Johnson Center for Philanthropy: The Johnson Center will be the premier academic center on philanthropy and nonprofit leadership dedicated to social change and community improvement at local, regional, national, and international levels. The website has information about the academic center at Grand Valley State University that Sellers Walker helped to lead.
- The Grand Rapids Historical Commission The GR Historical Commission hosts a photo essay on Thelma Estelle Garnet that has a collection of resources on the Great Migration of people of color from the rural south to the urban north.
- The Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame inducted Margaret Sellers Walker and has an entry for her on their website.
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Clipping file and oral history in the SOUL of Philanthropy collection in the Grand Rapids History and Special Collections of the Grand Rapids Public Library