In Memoriam: Ambassador George Herbert Walker III 1931-2020

Washington, DC – Members of the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) were deeply saddened to learn that Ambassador George Herbert Walker III, former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary (2003-2006), prominent St. Louis businessman and philanthropist passed away on January 18, 2020. He was 88 years old.

Mrs. Edith K. Lauer and Mr. Max Teleki handing the Coalition’s award to Ambassador George Herbert Walker III at the Coalition’s 3rd annual Gala Dinner on May 4, 2007 at the Decatur House in Washington, DC

In 2003 President George W. Bush appointed George H. Walker as ambassador to Hungary. He served in that role until 2006. Both in Hungary and in the Hungarian American community he was respected and well-liked for a genuine interest in building transatlantic relations, for his desire to learn all he could about Hungary, and for using his considerable expertise in business, education and civic affairs to benefit Hungary.

Ambassador Walker was born in St. Louis on March 16, 1931. He was a graduate of Yale University (BA 1953) and Harvard Law School (JD 1956). After serving two years in the Air Force, he moved to St. Louis in 1958 and started his business career as an investment executive at G. H. Walker & Co., the financial services company founded by the grandfather he shared with his first cousin, George H. W. Bush.

Later he joined Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Inc., and became its President and Chief Executive Officer in December 1978 and Chairman in 1982.  During his tenure as CEO, the firm made many acquisitions, enjoyed a successful IPO, and its common stock was listed on the NYSE.  In 1992, Ambassador Walker sought the Republican nomination for a suburban St. Louis congressional district. After his bid was unsuccessful, he stepped down as CEO but remained as Chairman. Upon his retirement in 2003, Walker was named Chairman Emeritus of Stifel.

Ambassador Walker has made remarkable contributions in the areas of business, education, politics, and civic affairs.  He was Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Webster University and served as a Board Member since 1974.  He served as Chairman of the Advisory Board of Webster’s Business School and Chairman of the Daniel Webster Society.  In 2010 Webster University named its Business School, which currently has more than 10,000 students enrolled in more than 100 locations in the U. S. and abroad, the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology.

In politics, he has been active both regionally and nationally serving as Finance Chairman for President Nixon in Missouri in 1972 and for President Reagan in 1984.  He was elected to the Republican Central Committee of St. Louis County and soon thereafter, to the State GOP Central Committee.  He played an active role in both the 1988 and 1992 campaigns when his cousin, George H.W. Bush was the GOP Presidential candidate, and in 2000 and 2004 when he supported the successful presidential campaigns of another cousin, George W. Bush.

In Hungary he served on the Board of the International Democracy Transition Center and received honorary degrees from the University of Pécs and Szt. István University.  In August, 2006, the President of Hungary, László Sólyom, presented Ambassador Walker the Commander’s Middle Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, the same honor awarded earlier to his cousin, President George H.W. Bush.

Coalition Chair Emerita, Edith Lauer, recalls: “Bert Walker was a true gentleman: he represented the best of American character.  He was liked and readily accepted for his unfailingly positive attitude, and his open, curious mind that sought to understand Hungarian history and people. We in the Coalition were privileged to have him as a friend and supporter in Hungary as well as after his return to the U.S.”

Over the years, Ambassador Walker attended many Coalition Gala and Mikulás dinners and participated in Coalition-sponsored projects.  In 2007, at its 3rd annual Gala Dinner, the Coalition recognized the Ambassador for “representing the best traditions of the United States in supporting the forces of freedom, democracy and solidarity for the benefit of the American and Hungarian nations, and whose record of service and integrity has earned the enduring gratitude of Hungarian-Americans.”

Ambassador Walker is survived by his wife, Carol, eight children and 14 grandchildren. A memorial service will be Feb. 22 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue, Missouri.

“Ambassador Walker, affectionately referred to as, “Uncle Bert”, was an enthusiastic supporter of the Hungarian-American community and the Coalition. During my tenure as president, he helped me expand our network of donors and friends of US- Hungary relations. His friendship and leadership will be greatly missed.” – said Max Teleki, Coalition President Emeritus.

The Hungarian American community mourns the loss of a true friend of Hungary who gave so much of himself in public service, in the United States and Hungary. His legacy is an inspiration to all of us.

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