Grand County’s community is mourning the loss of James “Jimmy” Robert Walker.
Walker, one of Grand County’s most respected citizens and lifelong resident, died on July 11. With decades of public service in Grand County, Walker, 90, is remembered for his kindness, his charismatic personality and a legacy of interest in public lands.
“He was always concerned about the Moab people and making sure that they have a voice and being a champion for them,” Grand County Council vice chair and Walker’s grandson, Curtis Wells, said. “That’s something that showed up pretty consistently in his life and his time in public office.”
For more than 50 years, Walker held public service in high regard. He was known as an advocate for Grand County’s citizens and served on the Grand County Commission for 12 years.
Those who knew him believe that Grand County wouldn’t be what it is today without his dedication to its land and residents.
Born in 1928 in Moab, Walker graduated from Grand County High School in 1946. He was self-educated in geology, an avid rock collector and a skilled hunter. He knew Moab and Grand County long before the uranium mining boom. His great-great-grandfather, Norman Taylor, was an original pioneer in the area.
Friends said Walker was a teacher to everyone he met in Grand County. He enjoyed taking friends and family for rides in his four-wheel-drive truck.
Wells said Walker was a mentor, as well: “Ninety-five percent of the education piece was spending time on the ground in the field. That’s where his knowledge and the education was passed down: bouncing around in a four-wheel-drive Chevrolet in the desert.”
Walker wasn’t shy about meeting new people, even ones he disagreed with, said family and friends.
Close friend Jerry McNeely said that “in old times” Walker would come across people in the desert who were working for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and talk with them about public lands. Walker advocated for the public’s access to roads on BLM land, and when the BLM shut the roads down, he worked to reopen them.
“Jimmy (along with Ray Tibbetts) was known for starting the Sagebrush Rebellion,” McNeely said. Raymond Tibbetts, 84, died in 2017. Walker and Tibbetts were best friends, Wells said.
Walker’s involvement in the Sagebrush Rebellion led him to take up issues with the BLM before legislatures. When the BLM closed off public access to Big Bend, Walker was there to reopen it to the public.
Tibbett’s widow, Carolyn, said Walker will be greatly missed in the community.
“I think he is an icon in our county for how he has worked on things so beautifully. I think he was an absolute beautiful man. I thought the world of him,” she said.
Walker’s efforts to stop the federal government from encroaching on local lands earned him the respect and friendship of Sen. Orrin Hatch.
“Former commissioner Jimmie Walker will be remembered as a stalwart defender of the citizens of Grand County,” Hatch told the Moab Sun News. “He tirelessly fought to promote economic opportunities for the local residents while protecting traditional values and a rural life style. I am honored that he was by my side during the Sagebrush Rebellion and that he was a true friend. His memory and influence will continue to live on through his family for decades to come.”
Walker’s family said he was a committed family man remembered for his kindness and strength. He often assumed a fatherly role to the children who came into his life.
The first of many children was named Mike. His mother was Marjorie Smith. He married Kit England in 1957, and adopted her three children: Larry, Kevin and Laurelei. Together they welcomed Wendy in 1959. He married Dorothy Knitig in 1973, and raised her three children: Marcia, Janice and Shelly. Their marriage continued until his passing.
Walker was passionate about God, family, music, church, fly fishing and chocolate. He sang for Moab events such as weddings and funerals for over 60 years. As a member of the Community Church of Moab, he was often seen singing in the choir for about 50 years.
He had an abundance of enthusiasm, wit and unconditional love. When people finished speaking with him, they said that an energy of love stayed with them for hours. Walker will forever be remembered by his nieces, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and friends.
Funeral services will be held on Thursday, July 19, at 10 a.m. at the Community Church of Moab. A viewing will be held on Wednesday, July 18, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Spanish Valley Mortuary. Interment will follow at the Sunset Memorial Gardens Cemetery.
Memorials donations may be made to New Hope Arches Pregnancy Center. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.SpanishValleyMortuary.com.
Walker, 90, spent a lifetime advocating for citizens in Grand County
“I think he is an icon in our county for how he has worked on things so beautifully. I think he was an absolute beautiful man. I thought the world of him.”