In the 22 years that followed, Walker has been:
- Chancellor of North Carolina Central University.
- President of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
- Head coach of the 1976 U.S. Olympic men's track and field team.
- President of the U.S. track and field federation (TAC/USA).
- Treasurer of the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1989 to now.
- Senior vice president/sports of the Atlanta organizing committee (ACOG) for the 1996 Olympics.
- And, sometime late this afternoon, the first black president of the 92-year-old USOC.
"Whether he says it or not, I think this is the highlight of his career," said Foster, who worked under Walker at ACOG.
The four-year term will allow Walker to preside over the USOC as the Olympics celebrate their centenary in his hometown of Atlanta.
Walker, who succeeds interim president William J. Hybl, will resign his ACOG position upon being elected. That move is to avoid any possibility of the conflict-of-interest problems that forced Hybl's predecessor, Robert Helmick, to resign 13 months ago.
"We're nearly getting over the Helmick incident," Walker said, "but what we are dealing with now is paranoia over conflict of interest. It was a serious, unexpected hurt, but we need to start on a positive path and make the American public forget about it."
Walker is the only nominee for that undertaking. The lack of opposition is a testimony less to indifference over a foregone conclusion than to the quality of his credentials, especially with the world about to come to Atlanta.
As an insider with both ACOG and the USOC, Walker is expected to help overcome differences between the two groups, particularly in the areas of marketing. As a man who has coached or been a consultant to the Olympic track teams of Israel, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and Kenya, and has given clinics in China, Syria, Lebanon and Haiti, he can be expected to help the Atlanta Olympics achieve a universalism that was sorely lacking in the jingoistic Los Angeles Games of 1984.
"If I had tried to write a scenario for this - to have a guy born in Atlanta, then to have Atlanta get the centennial Games, then to have this guy be the top person representing the U.S. - well, that would sound like mythical stuff," Walker said.
In reality, though, the story is not without a downside. Walker, who has two middle-aged children, is giving up a six-figure job at ACOG to take the unpaid position with the USOC.
His son, LeRoy Walker Jr., figured that move disproves one of his father's old saws.
"I always used to tell him, 'Your grandmother didn't raise any foolish children,' " said Walker Sr. "Then, when I told him about the USOC position and gave him a big spiel about why I wanted to do it, he said, 'You're leaving a big salary for no pay at all? I think maybe grandma raised one.' "
Walker Jr., 50, a former IBM executive who has started his own business, understands his father's motivation.
'He thinks this is an opportunity to provide leadership and set some direction in an area that is one of his special loves," Walker Jr. said.