Ted Walker: 'We all stood up' for freedom

·8 min read

Jul. 3—He's an expert in the ways of the Air Force, having served Uncle Sam for decades as an aircraft mechanic, and Ted Walker is also fluent in the customs of America in the 1770s, when such figures as George Washington, Benedict Arnold, Nathanael Greene and Daniel Morgan dominated the military scene.

His prominent appearances around South Carolina, Georgia and occasionally beyond often have him in 1770s-style garb, as one of the state's most active advocates of the Sons of the American Revolution. At age 72, he can give the impression of having gone through a time machine — possibly having been born during the reign of King William III or Queen Anne, when the foundations of Yale University were laid and South Carolina was the scene of a brewing war between British colonists and several Native American tribes, most prominently the Yamasee.

"I'm learning that South Carolina was a major contributor to the success of the American Revolution," Walker said. "There's more than 250 battle sites, and 200 other sites of interest, and nobody ever talks about those things."

Walker, who was born into a Navy family and grew up in Graniteville, is a huge exception to that rule, as he travels throughout the state helping share historical insight, including work with Junior ROTC units. He is also with such organizations as the Aiken County Veterans Council (as a former commander), Disabled Americans Veterans Post 43, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5877 and American Legion Post 77.

Among Walker's longtime associates has been Dick Chelchowski, another Air Force retiree and fellow member of VFW Post 5877. He recalled support from Walker, from almost a decade ago, in an effort to improve the post.

"He comes through," Chelchowski said. "If he says he'll help you out, you can ask him anything and he will do his best to make sure it happens ... Ted Walker's as reliable an individual as you're going to find."

Walker is also the SAR's national representative to the Veterans Administration Volunteer Services for the Charlie Norwood VA Hospital, in Augusta, and a fan (and frequent associate) of the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapters.

"They're all awesome, and they all help out," he said. "They are really involved in the community, and when they have events that affect our community, they include the Sons of the American Revolution ... and include them in any of our SAR events."

Walker is also on track to be president of the South Carolina Sons of the American Revolution, having been inducted in May as the vice president.

Major events on the near horizon include one July 10-15, in Savannah. The SAR National Congress will have members coming from around the world, with plans to elect new officers and talk about the organization's future.

Walker touched on some of the reasons for his involvement in patriotic organizations. "I'm a patriot. I love my country, and the reason that I want to tell the story is because I believe that history repeats itself, and after living in Europe and being all over the world and visiting Third World countries, America is a wonderful place," he said.

Walker, a 1970 graduate of Aiken High School, has traveled throughout western Europe and knows the eastern United States up and down, as a former trucker. Much more recently, he encourages Americans to explore their ancestry and appreciate the country they call home. He also has a ready resource in terms of appreciation for history, as his wife, Linda, is from "across the pond," and their combined family tree includes five children and an adopted grandson.

"I was in the United States Air Force for 26 years, and one of my assignments was to England, where I met my wife," said the senior man of the house, recalling his time at Royal Air Force Lakenheath.

"We'd go on vacations and we'd go into castles and we'd go to places all over Europe, and it sparked an interest," he said. "I didn't realize how much history is so valuable and interesting."

He took a course, while abroad, with the University of Maryland and was assigned to visit a variety of theaters, so the couple went to London and took in the sights and sounds.

"It's like a kid in a candy store," he said. "When you go to Europe, everywhere you go, as an American, is like an adventure, going back in time, in history ... I mean, I took a class in a building at Cambridge University, where Darwin went to school, and the building was built in the 1100s, and when you walk through the door, the ambiance is unbelievable. That's just one example."

The spark that lit his ancestral history, he said, was lit by his inheritance of land in Barnwell County. "I was doing some deed work, and we noticed that the land had been in the family since the 1700s."

The couple did some research and found that one of Walker's ancestors had a role in the establishment of Williston. "I just started ... digging," he said. "The more you dig, the more you find, and I just got involved."

Walker "got involved" with the military several decades earlier, when he was finishing high school and the draft was a fact of life. Preferring to have some choice in the matter, Walker took an aptitude test and opted for the Air Force. "I didn't go in to stay, but once I got in, I really liked it," he said, recalling that his first duty assignment was in Myrtle Beach. His specialty was aircraft mechanics, and he tended to work on fighter aircraft.

"That was a pretty nice first assignment, and then I volunteered to go overseas, and I went to Europe, and I stayed in Europe for a total of 12 years, over two tours, and then I was in the Air Force for 26 years, and I was all over everywhere."

As for the job, he recalled, "I basically took care of airplanes. I could sit in the cockpit and run them, start them up and service them and take care of them — make sure they were safe for flight, for the pilots."

He focused mainly on F-100s, F-4s, F-111s and F-15s, and later worked as a recruiter in California, Florida and Maryland. "I did that for about 14 years, and I did all facets of that, from high school recruiting to officers, pilots, navigators and engineers, and then I recruited doctors and nurses and health-care ancillaries. I was a trainer and did marketing, and I loved it, because I love the Air Force."

Walker's post-military years included time (1997 to 2017) as a trucker. He started his own company and drove 18-wheelers throughout the eastern half of the U.S., possessing not only the skills to drive but also, from his Air Force years, to rebuild motors if needed. He hauled everything from Serta mattresses (made in Grovetown, Georgia) to dry ice, and held a license to haul hazardous material.

Trucking is a lonely and hazardous line of work, he said, noting that he chose to step away from the profession after having a heart attack and reaching the firm conviction that operating a massive moving vehicle was an extremely bad activity to combine with the risk of having another myocardial infarction.

His profound interest in American life from about 200 years earlier came more recently. "It was about five years ago. Since I was in Europe, I was interested in where we came from, and my wife ... tracked her family back to the 1500s, and she said, 'Well, why don't you track yours back?'"

He did, and as a result, is also now a member of the The National Society of the Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims. "My ancestor was John Blake. He came over from Somerset, England, and he was actually an indentured servant. He had to work for seven years before he became a free man. He worked for the church, but in the Sons of the American Revolution, my ancestor's Thomas Maxwell, a famous Baptist minister. He was actually locked up, preaching the Baptist faith, and a famous guy by the name of Patrick Henry defended him in a famous religious case, which is documented, and got him off," Walker recalled.

Maxwell lived to age 95 and helped found 13 churches along the frontier. "He was really a wonderful old guy."

Walker, now into his own seventh decade, added, "I never paid attention when I was in school, and now I like it, because I'm learning about our country and about the freedom and ... I love this country."

He cited examples of ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War (Maxwell) and the War of 1812 (Maxwell's son). "Then you go on down to the War Between the States. I've got grandfathers on both sides — a Union grandfather, and also a Southern grandfather that was in the Confederate states' army. Then you go to World War I. We haven't found anybody, but my dad was in World War II, and he served against the Japanese as a corpsman, and then I was in 26 years, so when somebody says, 'What did you do for your country?,' I stood up, and we all stood up, to protect America's freedom."