William Walton, the journalist turned painter who chaired the Washington Fine Arts Commission from 1961 to 1971, was born in Jacksonville, Illinois. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, he pursued a career in journalism, ultimately working with the Associated Press in Chicago and as Time-Life war correspondent during World War II (when he parachuted into France with the 82nd Airborne Division to cover D-Day). In 1945 Time-Life moved him to Washington where he also edited for the New Republic. Four years later, he resigned his positions to concentrate on his (predominantly abstract expressionist) painting.
Walton played a key role supporting his Georgetown neighbor John Kennedy's 1960 Democratic presidential campaign by first working in the Wisconsin and West Virginia primaries and, after the convention, helping manage the New York campaign. He accompanied JFK to Val-Kill when the candidate sought ER's endorsement in August. President Kennedy then appointed Walton chair of the Fine Arts Commission where, working closely with Jacqueline Kennedy, he had a major impact on the preservation of historic Washington, especially in the restoration of Lafayette Square and the Renwick Gallery and the expansion of the National Gallery of Art. He also influenced the design of Dulles Airport and the Washington rapid transit system. He resumed writing and in 1966 wrote The Evidence of Washington, a photographic book chronicling the development of the national capital.
He returned to New York in 1975, where he died in 1994 from heart problems.
Source: Bart Barnes, "William Walton Dies at Age 85," The Washington Post, 20 December 1994, Section D, p. 5.
Recommended citation: Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker, Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based on unpublished letters. .
For more information, visit The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers home page at https://erpapers.columbian.gwu.edu/.
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