Black Conservative Wins State Panel Seat

Published December 8, 1996

SPRINGFIELD–A conservative Burr Ridge executive criticized for his views against affirmative action will take a seat on the state community colleges board despite a stormy Senate confirmation.

Though Senate Republicans favored Gov. Edgar’s nomination of Lee H. Walker to a term on the Illinois Community College Board, the 32-26 vote came after sharp opposition from Democrats.

“His philosophies are similar to that of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas,” said Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones (D-Chicago), who led the fight against Walker.

Walker’s “views don’t fit with mainstream America,” Jones said. “He’ll be dealing with contracts and recommendations to help women and minorities.”

Walker, 57, a black retired executive with Sears, Roebuck and Co., said Jones is accurate in saying he opposes affirmative action, but wrong in saying he would be a divisive voice on the community colleges board.

“The senator’s fears are misplaced,” Walker said Friday.

“Affirmative action is no longer doing what we expected it to do. It has run its course, and it’s time for us to develop a new way to help blacks in the 21st century. I’m just as dedicated to this side of the issue as Sen. Jones is opposed to it.”

Walker will serve until 2001 on the 11-member board, which oversees the state’s 49 community colleges.

“He is ultra-conservative. He makes me look like a liberal,” said Senate President James “Pate” Phillip (R-Wood Dale), who backed Walker’s nomination.

Dave McKinney writes for the Springfield Bureau of the Chicago Sun-Times. This article appeared in the December 8, 1996 edition.