Lucius Walker Jr., 80

Obituary: Lucius Walker Jr., leader of Pastors for Peace

Pastors for Peace members the Rev. Lucius Walker, left, Ellen Bernstein and the Rev. Tom Smith meet with Fidel Castro in 2009.
Pastors for Peace members the Rev. Lucius Walker, left, Ellen Bernstein and the Rev. Tom Smith meet with Fidel Castro in 2009. (Pastors For Peace Via Associated Press)
Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Rev. Lucius Walker Jr., who led an annual pilgrimage of American aid volunteers to Cuba in defiance of the U.S. government's nearly half-century trade embargo, died Sept. 7 of a heart attack in New York. He was 80.

Rev. Walker headed the nonprofit Pastors for Peace, which since 1992 has taken tons of supplies to Cuba via Mexico and Canada -- everything from walkers and wheelchairs to computer monitors and clothing.

Pastors for Peace violates the embargo by refusing to apply to the U.S. government for permission to export humanitarian goods to Cuba, instead traveling through intermediary countries to deliver supplies donated by people in the United States. Rev. Walker led the last of his 21 relief trips to Cuba in July.

Many Cuban Americans criticized Rev. Walker as an apologist for Cuba's communist government. In response, he said, "The Bible tells us to meet the needs of all who suffer, not just people who happen to be of our own political persuasion."

Pastors for Peace is one of several groups that take goods to Cuba in open defiance of the embargo, which took its current form in February 1962. Most are allowed to leave and return to the United States without incident, although some participants have received letters threatening fines and other sanctions from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Lucius Walker Jr. was born Aug. 3, 1930, in Roselle, N.J. He graduated from Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., in 1954 and four years later received a master of divinity degree from Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, Mass.

In addition to organizing supply missions, Rev. Walker was founding director of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization and negotiated an agreement with Cuban officials allowing dozens of American children from poor areas to study at Havana's Latin American School of Medicine.

As part of that program, American graduates are expected to return to the United States, get medical licenses and provide care in underserved communities.

-- From wire and staff reports


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