Merywether L. Walker


Meriwether Lewis Walker was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, on September 30, 1869, the son of Thomas Lidsay and Catherine Dabney Walker. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1893 and from the U.S. Engineering School in 1896. He was director of the Army Field Engineering School from 1912 to 1914, and was professor of practical military engineering at West Point from 1914 to 1916. In 1904, he married Edith B. Carey.

Walker was appointed chief engineer of Punitive Expeditions into Mexico from 1916 to 1917, went to France as chief engineer of American Expeditionary Forces from August 1918 to August 1919, and then continued as instructor of the Army War College from 1919 to 1920. Walker was promoted to colonel on July 1, 1920.

Walker was chief Panama Canal maintenance engineer from 1921 to 1924, before his appointment as governor of the Panama Canal Zone on October 16, 1924. He served as governor until 1928.

Of all Governors of the Canal, Walker was probably the most aloof. He was a quiet man, rather reserved, but completely absorbed in his work. For this reason he probably was not as close to the workers as were Morrow and Goethals, but his men found him to be absolutely just and fair in all things, acting accordingly and unhesitatingly. He was "all business," his men declared. Like Goethals, he was a man of prodigious memory, his mind retaining the small details that ordinarily might be forgotten.

Canal traffic was growing in volume during his tenure , and he foresaw the need of future expansion. His was the foresight that to see the need of an additional water reservoir somewhere in the hills of the upper Chagres . In fact, in 1925 he took Illinois Congressman Martin B. Madden into the jungles of Alhajuela and pointed out possible sites for the dam. When the dam was built, it was named in honor of Congressman Madden for his support to the project.

Walker meanwhile worked for the deepening of the Pacific sea-lane and Balboa harbor, and saw that municipal operations were continued in step with an increasing population of employees and their families and the growth of the terminal cities of Panama and Colon. Initial steps were taken to control flooding of the Chagres River and an auxiliary power plant was constructed at Miraflores. A general clean-up dredging program in Gaillard Cut also provided for handling of increasing traffic. Walker died on July 29, 1947.