Human and Civil Rights Activist Remembered
Contact: Eric Stradford
July 5, 2010 — Mary Ann Walker Ralls of Philadelphia, PA is being remembered by family and friends as a “behind the scenes” enabler for some of the city’s memorable moments. She died at her home in Kennesaw, GA today after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 85. Ms. Ralls was a 42-year breast cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in 1968.
She was also an initial investor in the Philadelphia Progress Plaza economic initiative. As an activist, Ms. Ralls was instrumental in local and national fundraisers in support of the American Civil Rights Movement.
Her numerous public achievements included coordination of a presentation for “Lillies of the Field”, starring actor Sidney Poitier and featuring keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The event rallied support for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). For many years, she was a member of the NAACP.
During her career, she found employment at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, United Steelworkers of America, KYW Television, and Temple University. While at Temple, she worked closely with the university’s late president, Dr. Marvin Wachman, and his wife, Addie, to improve community relations. Her notable administrative career culminated in her retirement from MERCK in 1992.
Although she enjoyed family, church, coin collecting, music and travel, Mary Ann’s greatest satisfaction was being near a body of water with her fishing pole.
Born January 9, 1925 in Griffin, GA to the late Deacon J. D. Walker (1899-1968) and Laurena Puriefoy Walker (1897-2000), she was the second of four children. She grew up in the Elmwood community (Eastwick) of Philadelphia, where she graduated from Bartram High School. Later, she completed Strayer Business School. Mary Ann served on the Usher Board of Beulah Baptist Church, where she, her parents and maternal grandparents had been affiliated since 1927.
Ms. Ralls is survived by her only child, Stephanie A. Walker Stradford of Marietta, GA, her sister, Evelyn Walker Armstrong, of Rydal, PA, family, friends and church families at Turner Chapel AME Church, Marietta, GA and Beulah. In lieu of flowers, tax-deductible contributions may be made payable to Youth Achievers USA Institute, For additional information, please visit www.YouthUSA.org.
A Celebration of Life will be held at Beulah Baptist Church, 5001 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA. Arrangements by Yarborough and Rocke Funeral Home, Inc. For updated information, please visit www.youthusa.org/walkerfund/MARalls , email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-877-0260.
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