The Day reports that for anyone down on their luck, out of it, angry, isolated, drug-addicted or simply fed up with it all, Harlem man George Walker has a new year message.
Walker, who spent four decades as a drug addict and wasted years in jail as a convicted bank robber, just last month completed a Ph.D program at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., hoping to find a job in academia after a year and a half as a clinician for the Southeastern Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Meanwhile, he plans to open a practice devoted to family and marriage therapy.
It’s an amazing transformation for the native of Harlem who once dropped out of Wesleyan University to join the Black Panthers and had lived on the streets as a heroin addict, disconnected from family and friends.
“I got tired,” he said. “Addiction is a young man’s game.”
So on Sept. 30, 2000, as he recalls, Walker at the age of 50 had one last drink. It was alcohol, he said, that always later led to doing harder drugs.
Walker’s life had held promise at the beginning, but there were major impediments as well. An orphan by age 4, he was raised in the relatively well-to-do Sugar Hill section of Harlem by his aunts, none of whom had graduated from grade school.
But Walker did well in school, almost in spite of himself, finishing with SAT scores in the top 96th percentile and garnering interest from half a dozen Ivy League-level schools, including nearby Columbia University.
Graduating from high school in 1968 at the height of racial tensions nationwide because of the assassination of Martin Luther King, he decided on Wesleyan University in Middletown, where he remembers breezing through classes but sticking out like a sore thumb because he was one of the very few blacks on campus.
“Wesleyan was a culture shock,” he said.
Photo of George Walker courtesy of Barry University.