It is with heavy heart that the Outdoor Writers Association of America shares the news of OWAA President Mike Walker’s passing. A member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America since 1989, Walker was a leader and innovator in the outdoors field. Walker died the morning of Aug. 16, surrounded by his family at a hospice facility near his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 64.
“The [non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver] just got to be too much to battle,” Walker’s wife Mary wrote on the family’s CaringBridge website. “As if everyone knew last night would be his last, the whole family came over to have a family dinner and to be with him … Everyone knew the end was in sight and were able to say their goodbyes.”
The Walker Agency, which Walker formed in 1982, specialized in representing outdoor recreation clients including long-time OWAA supporters Toyota Motor Sales, Safari Club International, Yamaha Motor Corp., BoatU.S. and many others. Walker produced and wrote for two nationally syndicated radio programs, “The World of Ducks Unlimited,” and “Toyota Outdoors.” He also wrote a monthly marketing column for Soundings Trade Only magazine, the leading marine industry publication, plus freelance articles in Boat and Motor Dealer and Boating World magazines.
“Mike was a true pro who worked his heart out for his clients,” said Mark Taylor, OWAA first vice president. “This is a guy who, when he was working with Toyota, showed up at an OWAA conference with a Prius, and that was the car all those truck-driving outdoorsmen ended up talking about. He was that good.”
“Mike was one of the most honest men I knew. And he knew his products extremely well,” said Jim Foster, OWAA colleague and friend.
Walker was elected OWAA vice president and joined OWAA’s executive committee in 2008. In 2011, the OWAA board of directors unanimously elected him president, a position he held at the time of his death. Walker previously served two terms on OWAA’s board in addition to serving many OWAA committees over the years. He also received numerous OWAA Excellence in Craft contest awards.
Walker was involved in communications his entire life. In high school, he hosted a weekly radio report and wrote for the student newspaper. He then became sports editor for the Kansas University Daily Kansan and a stringer for the Topeka Capital-Journal and Kansas City Star. After graduating from The University of Kansas’s journalism school in 1969, he did two overseas tours as a Naval officer before earning a master’s degree and teaching journalism at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. In his post-academic life, Walker held positions as editorial services manager for Johnson Outboards and public relations manager for Armour-Dial before launching his own firm.
“From the moment I joined OWAA, Mike offered me mentorship and friendship and shared his inimitable sense of humor,” said OWAA Executive Committee member Katie McKalip, director of media relations with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, an OWAA supporter. “He left this world far too soon, but his influence and legacy will be long remembered and widely respected.”
Walker’s professional affiliations were far-reaching. He received several industry awards, including the Crystal Award of Excellence in The Communicator Awards 2007 International Print Media competition. He was a life member and past president of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, and member of Boating Writers International, the Automotive Press Association, and the Phoenix Automotive Press Association. He also served as secretary of the Outdoor Journalism Education Foundation of America.
“He taught me more about producing radio shows in a few short years than I’d have learned on my own in twice that amount of time, and he was always quick to respond to any questions I had,” said Ty Stockton, a fellow radio host and OWAA member. “He was a mentor, for sure, but more than that, he was a friend.”
“As a member of the OWAA Board of Directors and later as an officer, Mike was always there to lend a hand and provided sage advice and sound counsel,” said OWAA Past President Tony Dolle. “As OWAA president, I often called on Mike for advice because of his vast experience in all things media related and he never hesitated to provide well-thought-out answer.”
“It’s a sad day for OWAA and the other media organizations Mike belonged to, but a sadder day for those of us whose lives he touched,” Dolle said. “I can truly say I am a better person for having known Mike and a lucky one to have called him friend.”
Funeral arrangements will be announced as soon as they are released.