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History of the Alex. C Walker Foundation - Overview
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Air Crisis in Pittsburgh
Water and Flooding Crisis in Pittsburgh
Cleaning Up the Air
Bipartisan Effort to Rebuild Pittsburgh
As one of the nation's early industrialists, Thomas Walker embodied the free-enterprise spirit in his rise from humble beginnings. His son Alex Walker established a family foundation to investigate economic imbalances and causes tending to impair the free enterprise system, which he believed was responsible for creating the country's unique opportunities for self advancement and wealth.
Thomas Walker, father of Alex C. Walker, was one of the early entrepreneurs of Pittsburgh.
The story of the Foundation's history begins in Pittsburgh in 1840 with the birth of Thomas Walker. There he acquired his education in the night schools of the city and at an early age learned the machinists' trade with a local firm. He commenced at the very bottom of the ladder, his first job being the wheeling of ashes.
After working his way up as an employee, during the time of the Civil War he established a brewery under the name of Fawcett & Walker. However, on the advice of Thomas Marshall, a well known attorney, he withdrew from that line of business. He then established a foundry in 1862 with Thomas McVey at Braddock Field, eight miles from the center of business. McVey had invented an automatic railroad dump car, which the firm constructed. Thomas Walker was the company's president.
The business of McVey and Walker prospered, coming to employ 25 to 80 skilled artisans, depending upon the "exigencies of the trade." Eventually the firm had three departments carrying on the work of founding, car building, and forging. During his career Thomas Walker went on to become treasurer of Columbia Steel & Shafting, Vice President of Union Insurance, and President of the Merchants' Savings & Trust. All three companies being located in Pittsburgh. He also served as "councilman of the city at the time the present water works was constructed."
Thomas Walker in about 1878
Thomas Walker married Amelia Cubbage and had two sons. Thomas Algo became secretary of the Columbia Steel & Shafting Company Co. in Carnegie, PA and Alex Cubbage became secretary and treasurer of the McVey-Walker Company.
While working for the family business Alex also served as a chemist for a new division, the bath tub works. There he developed different formulas for coatings to make the tubs more durable. Alex always had a strong philosophy of free enterprise.
Three events that likely shaped Alex's views were the great depression, Pittsburgh's efforts to
protect its water supply
and clean up its
. Alex developed an interest in applying the study of economics to avoid disastrous interruptions to business and employment such as these. Rather than being an inevitable result of economic activity, he believed that such imbalances could be addressed by encouraging the development of market-based solutions.
The family trustees reached these conclusions on Alex's views after researching the history of the Foundation, interviewing family members, and visiting the former site of the family business with Thomas Urling Walker, Senior. He personally knew Alex and recommended that Alex hire an experienced attorney to draw up his will.
Alex C. Walker in 1954
Unlike his brother, Alex never married. After the sale of the business, Alex moved from the smoky, industrial city of Pittsburgh to Florida in about 1940 to protect his health. Before he passed away in 1968, he made provisions through his will to establish a family charitable foundation for the purpose of funding organizations and programs devoted to the fostering of the free enterprise system.
Thomas A. Walkers' sons, Thomas Urling and Barrett Cubbage were appointed as the first trustees. In 1981 they received permission from the court to name their sons as successor trustees and established a procedure for appointing future trustees from the Walker family.
Upon the retirement of their fathers, Thomas Walker, Jr. and Barrett P. Walker became family trustees effective Jan 1, 1998.
Barrett P. Walker serves as director, managing the grant program and the Foundation website. Pittsburgh National Bank, is named as a corporate trustee. In 1983 Pittsburgh National Bank merged with Provident National Bank of Philadelphia to form PNC Bank Corp. PNC Bank manages the Foundation's investments.
1 Last Will and Testament of Alex C. Walker
2 Jordan - Genealogical and Personal History of Western Pennsylvania, p. 599.
3 Edwards - Industries of Pittsburgh, p. 264
4 Jordan, p.600
5 Order of Allegheny County Orphan's Court, vol. 589, P. 597.
© 2017 Alex C. Walker Foundation