Mural fitting Walker tribute

It’s appropriate that the latest mural in the series that covers walls in downtown Steubenville and Hollywood City Center will be dedicated Sunday.

That’s because the subject of that painting — Moses Fleetwood Walker — was born on Oct. 7, 1857, in Mount Pleasant.

What makes him worthy of a bigger-than-life portrayal on the side of attorney Jerry Boswell’s building at 139 N. Third St. is that he is recognized by many baseball historians as being the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, as a member of Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association when that organization was elevated to major league status in 1884.

Before joining Toledo, Walker had played baseball at Oberlin College and the University of Michigan. He used his skills as an athlete to take on the racial discrimination and segregation that were prevalent during that period to break baseball’s color barrier. After he and brother, Weldy, and William Edward White — who, baseball historians say passed as a white man in order to play — were forced to leave the game, there would not be an African-American in Major League Baseball until Jackie Robinson broke in with the then-Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

Walker was more than an athlete — he was a businessman, who owned the Union Hotel in Steubenville and the Opera House movie theater in Cadiz; an inventor, who had four patents to his name; and author. He and Weldy are buried in Union Cemetery.

Sunday also is Moses Fleetwood Walker Day in Ohio, as designated by the Legislature, thanks to the efforts of Craig Brown of Salem and his students at Kent State University and Stark State College, and state Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus.

Artist Ruston Baker created the mural, which is scheduled to dedicated at 1:30 p.m Sunday in a ceremony that’s open to the public. Brown, Leland and Steubenville-native Rich Donnelly, a longtime coach in the major and minor leagues, including a stint with the Pirates, are scheduled to be among the speakers.

Plus, an exhibit on Walker at the Jefferson County Historical Association Museum on Franklin Avenue also will be open.

The murals, which are coordinated through the Steubenville Visitor Center, help tell the history of our community, and the Walker tribute is a fitting addition to the series.