The Preacher’s Kid

The early years of Scott Walker, including his much discussed time at Marquette University. Excerpted from a new book.

By - Apr 8th, 2013 10:00 am
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Scott Kevin Walker was born November 2, 1967 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Patricia Ann (née Fitch) and Llewellyn Scott Walker. Scott has one brother, David. The family moved to Wisconsin when Scott was ten years old.

Llew was a Baptist pastor, which let Walker label himself a preacher’s kid when it worked for his political career. In 2008, 76% of Wisconsin’s population self-identified as Christian. Walker and his family currently attend a non-denominational evangelical church in Wauwatosa. In 2009, Walker spoke to The Christian Businessmen’s Committee in Madison, Wisconsin and made clear his calling. The speech is still available on the internet.

Walker told this group that about the time many budding conservatives were casting a first vote for Ronald Reagan, he was committing to Jesus.

“I said, ‘Lord, I’m ready…not just in front of my Church and the world but most importantly at the foot of your Throne, I’m ready to follow you each and every day…I have just full out there said, ‘I’m going to trust in you Christ to tell me where to go. And to the best of my ability I’m going to obey where you lead me,’ and that has made all the difference in the world to me, for good times and bad.”

Walker once characterized his time as a preacher’s kid as living in a “fishbowl.” For an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, he said:

“Everyone knew my father. And everywhere I went, they asked me to lead them in prayer. I was happy to do it, but I remember thinking at the time, ‘You know, this stuff isn’t osmosis.’”

In a 2002 article, prior to his election for Milwaukee County Executive, Walker allowed a different image to emerge. The article touts how Walker formed a “Jesus U.S.A.” club at the age of seven.

Imagine a young Governor Walker skipping down the sidewalk holding a coffee can with a sign taped to it: Jesus U.S.A. Club. Picture the little tyke knocking on doors giving each neighbor a spiel to raise money for a flag pole. Now, fast forward forty years as Walker raises money to campaign.

The article also said, “As a teenager, he would sometimes serve as a stand-in preacher for vacationing area Baptist ministers during the summer.” No doubt, that is where he honed his speaking skills. Walker does not use a teleprompter. He does not even use notes to convey his message. Watching Walker’s speech at the 2012 Republican National Committee convention, his awkwardness was apparent to those who have heard him speak. The teleprompter stood in his way of his normal smooth delivery.

In a 1990 Hilltop (Marquette University yearbook) interview, Walker further explained his convictions: “I really think there’s a reason why God put all these political thoughts in my head.”

Those thoughts had been there a while. In 1985 while attending Delavan-Darian High School, Scott Walker was selected for Badger Boy’s State – a week-long program of mock state government. He was then chosen to attend Boy’s Nation, another week of mock-government programming sponsored by the American Legion.

An article in Walworth County Today shows an old photo of Scott Walker and says, “He’s on his way to Washington, D.C.” The article continues by quoting a young Walker:

“Eventually, I’d really like to run for senator or representative,” Scott says of his career aspirations. But he’s quick to add, “In politics, you have to play it by ear.”

Walker graduated in spring 1986. The high school yearbook has several photos available online, including one labeling Scott K. Walker “the Desperado” which is pictured below.

Scott K. Walker “the Desperado”. Photo from the Delavan-Darian High School Yearbook.

Scott K. Walker “the Desperado”. Photo from the Delavan-Darian High School Yearbook.

A member of the 2010-11 Delavan-Darian high school yearbook staff asked Walker for a history on the photo after he became governor. Walker really did not remember, but offered that a long-time schoolmate of his was the yearbook editor, and he probably had more photos in there than he deserved.

For those of us from the mullet era, the picture is just darned cute.

After high school, Walker attended Marquette University from fall of 1986 to spring of 1990. During that time, he returned to the American Legion programs as a counselor in the summers.

Walker lost a 1988 bid for Marquette Student President, but did not leave college. Though rumors persist he left because of discipline attached to the actions of his campaign for the race, there is no evidence of it being fact, nor does the timing fit his exit.

Walker did not earn a degree from the university. There are inconsistencies in his departure. For one, earning a triple major in four and a half years would be quite an accomplishment requiring a great number of credits.

In the 1990 Hilltop yearbook, an article on Walker explains:

“Planning to graduate in December of 1990 with a triple major of political science, economics and philosophy, Walker hopes to continue his political activities such as running for State Assembly against Gwendolyn Moore in 1990.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel revealed more details on Walker’s college career in a July 2010 article:

“Walker released a letter from Marquette that showed he attended the school for four years, from 1986 to 1990, and would have needed to stay there for at least another year to get a degree. He had 94 credits and would have needed at least 36 more. The exact number of credits he needed isn’t clear because students must take classes in certain areas of study to get degrees.”

That total would have been for one degree as Marquette generally requires 120 credits to graduate. Walker’s Hilltop interview said he was expecting three degrees.

Another persistent rumor never proven is that Scott Walker left Marquette University for academic dishonesty. Research with several who made the claim could offer no more proof than their own opinions.

Glen Barry, PhD articulated his argument just before the June 2012 recall election:

“I wish I could say definitely why he never graduated – it is a closely guarded secret. I believe the general line of thinking – that Scott Walker was caught cheating. Both Walker and Marquette University should end their cover-up of what occurred. Instead Marquette hails Walkers as a “Marquette alumnus” even though he only attended and did not graduate.”

When asked for details Barry said, “No one knows, probably a deal between him and one priest, and they aren’t talking.”

Louis Weisberg, Editor in Chief for The Wisconsin Gazette, The Voice of Progress for Wisconsin’s LGBT Community, made a similar claim in June 2011 writing,

“As we saw during the budget standoff last winter, dirty tricks come easily to Walker, who was thrown out of Marquette University for cheating.”

When asked for specifics Weisberg replied, “…I wish that I had proof but I don’t.”

Other interviews, including one with a former dance date, indicate Walker left for financial reasons. It simply became too expensive to stay. This assumption also fits with another piece of evidence: The State of Wisconsin filed in court to collect taxes against Walker’s parents in 1987.

Marquette University Political Science Professor Emerita Janet K. Boles remembers Governor Scott Walker. In the April 25, 2002 edition of The Marquette Tribune, she gave a charming quote saying Walker “attended class every day in a three-piece suit. It was like teaching Alex Keaton.” Keaton was the character played by a young Michael J. Fox in the 1980’s sitcom Family Ties. She also said Walker was, “an average student who was likeable, articulate, and interested in urban affairs.”

Professor Boles continued her recollection in a follow-up e-mail in May 2012:

“I do know that he attended class in a three-piece suit (because he was working at a bank, as I recall)–hence my Alex Keaton quip. I recall Walker clearly because of that unusual classroom appearance and also as a very polite person. Another story (that I read within the year in the Wisconsin Gazette) is that Walker was put on academic probation over the campaign violations. That I am certain is a false rumor; student government election violations would not bring sanctions from the university. I believe that Walker did leave MU in good standing (with GPA well above the level that would bring academic probation/expulsion). A GPA of 2.59 is below-average for MU students (given grade inflation) but translates into a BC average.”

A Washington Post biography of Governor Scott Walker says Walker is the first Wisconsin governor in 64 years without a college degree. But Walker now has his eye on a national office, bidding to join the rare group of U.S Presidents without a college degree. Harry Truman, 1945-1953, was the only President in the 20th century without one. Before Truman it was Grover Cleveland in the late 1800’s.

This story is excepted from the book, “Scott Walker’s Wisconsin: A Fairly Conservative Perspective,” by Cindy Kilkenny, 2012, available at amazon.com

Categories: Politics

18 thoughts on “The Preacher’s Kid”

  1. John Foust says:

    If you ask Kilkenny, she’ll say Walker is a great governor. She’ll also say she’s a great writer.

  2. Alba says:

    If Walker really is going to run for presedent, this MU secret will have to come out.

  3. Chris Byhre says:

    Most Liberals are not interested in the truth when it does not further their agenda. Barry and Weisberg make completely unsubstantiated charges against the Governor and are not forced to show proof. Rumor has it there is a new book being penned about Tom Barrett and that proceeds from the the thriller will be directed toward a cure for insomnia.

  4. Zach W. says:

    Someone should tell Cindy Kilkenny that Scott Walker’s family moved to Wisconsin from Plainfield, Iowa – not from Colorado.

    A 5 second Google search would have turned that up.

  5. Dave Reid says:

    @Zach You are correct. I’ve removed “from Colorado”…. And we’ll fix it better in the morning.

  6. Cindy K says:

    Ouch. That was indeed embarrassing. I went back through my research where indeed I had that detail, but I lost the fact in the editing.

    I’m so sorry. I worked hard on this, but evidently I’m not ready for prime time. I’m really lucky to have places like this where it can be vetted.

  7. Homer Jay says:

    I’m bet “The Chris Byhre Story’ would be a real page-turner.

  8. Chris Byhre says:

    HomerJay, what is your point or does having a point require too much thought on your part? My point in my earlier post was to illustrate that unsubstantiated accusations against Scott Walker need to be backed up or rescinded. I also mentioned Barrett because he is an abject failure as a mayor and a complete empty suit. Therefore, any book written about a man who does not want the job he has and has failed numerous times to get a different job would be boring in my opinion. I never compared myself to the Mayor, why did you feel the need to insert me into the argument?

  9. ohbrad says:

    Chris, You started this stream of unconsciousness!

  10. chris byhre says:

    ohbrad, exclamation points do not make your statement more relevant or coherent for that matter. I suspect you are incapable of stringing together thoughts in a semi organized fashion, but if you can, we could have a debate.

  11. ohbrad says:

    I’m sorry you’re so lonely.

  12. Cindy K says:

    I’m just delighted the two of you lowered to the usual rhetoric. I make a huge mistake that causes me to lose at least an hour’s sleep and the two of you can’t get past,

    “You suck.”

    “No, you suck.”

    I couldn’t have paid two people to behave this way and cover so well for me.

    (Hello Wisconsin. We’re better than this.)

  13. John Foust says:

    If they’d been on your own web site, you could’ve simply deleted their comments and banned them.

  14. Cindy K says:

    Nah. You’re just a really special person, John. That’s why you were canned. You are more than welcome to return if you promise to think before you type.

  15. judith ann moriarty says:

    In the 2000 census, Plainfield had 438 residents and two “notables” One was a football player by the name of Pagel. The other was Scott Walker. Iowans love their football.

  16. Homer Jay says:

    You’re right Chris, it was a stupid flippant comment I shouldn’t have made. This is an article about Scott Walker, and it irks me when the way to defend someone is to badmouth someone else as being worse. Barrett had nothing to do with this article.

  17. JDM says:

    Digital copy of Marquette Tribune at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/16/scott-walker-1988-marquette-election_n_836508.html

    “An October 2010 issue of the Marquette Tribune has a good round-up of the controversies surrounding Walker’s campaign when he ran for president of the student government. The article notes, for example, that Walker was accused of violating campaign guidelines “on multiple occasions.” It also cites the original Tribune editorial from the time of the campaign that called Walker “unfit” for office because of his mudslinging attacks on his opponent.” ` http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/purple-wisconsin/154807455.html

  18. Cindy K says:

    JRM, that’s in the book, but later under a section on his history as a politician. I chose to separate the issues because of the Professor’s comment that it would never have caused academic expulsion.

    Also:

    In a 1990 interview, Walker said, “He didn’t achieve office…because he focused on personalities and egos.”

    The part about Walker’s political history is interesting to me because of the different personas he adapted for various campaigns.

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