Honoring Baylor's First Black Graduates

Idaho-based sculptor Benjamin Victor was selected to create bronze life-sized statues of Robert Gilbert, B.A. ’67, and Barbara Walker, B.A. ’67 — Baylor’s first Black graduates. Victor was chosen through a competitive process in conjunction with Walker, the Gilbert family and Baylor’s Campus Experience Project Team, which is working through recommendations from the University’s Commission on Historic Campus Representations.

Robert Gilbert, B.A. ’67, and Barbara Walker, B.A. ’67
Robert Gilbert, B.A. ’67, and Barbara Walker, B.A. ’67

Victor is the only living artist with three pieces in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. His first statue was dedicated to the Hall in 2005 when he was 26 years old, making him the youngest artist to have a piece in this collection. He will soon have a fourth piece in the Hall, depicting Daisy Bates of the Little Rock Nine.

Baylor’s search for an artist to create these sculptures began in the summer of 2021. Victor said he jumped at the chance for this commission and that he wants to see “heroes like this put on a pedestal.”

The statues of Gilbert and Walker will stand outside Tidwell Bible Building. They reflect the commitment of the University to thoughtfully consider and implement the Commission’s recommendation to use physical representations to better communicate the many contributions of Black students, faculty and staff throughout Baylor’s history.

Vice President for Marketing and Communications Jason Cook, A.B.C. ’20, is co-chair of Baylor’s Campus Experience Project Team.

“We believe Robert Gilbert and Barbara Walker truly embody who we are at Baylor — that sense of selfless service and how we give back as a Christian institution,” Cook said.

After Baylor trustees desegregated the University in 1965, Gilbert earned a history degree with an English minor. He eventually became a pastor and died in 1992. Walker earned a sociology degree and spent much of her life in California, working in public mental health. She is now retired and lives in Arizona. Walker received Baylor’s 2017 Medal of Service for Contributions to the Professions, Christian Ministry.

In a 2000 speech on Baylor’s campus, Walker challenged students to seize the opportunity set before them.

“You have the privilege to learn and grow, not only in your field of study but, most importantly, to learn more about who God is and how He wants to use your life,” Walker said.

Victor, who describes his ability to create works of art as “a gift from God,” consulted with Walker and the Gilbert family to determine how best to make the statues representative of the people they will depict. Designs have not yet been finalized, but Gilbert’s statue will hold a Bible, and Walker’s will feature her warm smile.

Gilbert’s son Kenyatta Gilbert, B.A.’96, Ph.D., a homiletics professor at Howard University’s School of Divinity in Washington, D.C., said his father deeply admired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and saw himself as someone who could speak to some of the social problems of the era.

“He was always seeking to better the life of the least of these, which is very consistent with Dr. King’s vision,” Kenyatta said. “My father’s legacy lives on in people. Any minister who knew him would say they had gotten more courage and inspiration by looking at his life and how he lived it.”

The statues will create a highly visible and welcoming message that all members of the Baylor Family are valued in fulfillment of the University’s Christian mission.