Estellene Paxton Walker was born in Bristol, Virginia, on September 11, 1913. She attended the University of Tennessee where she earned her undergraduate degree in 1933. With a scholarship from the Lawson-McGhee Library, Knoxville, Tennessee, she studied at the library school at Emory University, receiving a B.S. degree in library science.
In 1935, Miss Walker returned to Tennessee where she was employed as head of the County Department at the Lawson-McGhee Library. From 1941 to 1945, she served as the Post Librarian at Fort Jackson. During the last year of World War II, she was appointed Materials Supply Librarian with the Army Special Services in the European Theatre of Operations.
Miss Walker returned to the United States in 1946 and assumed the position of Director of the South Carolina State Library Board. When legislation passed in 1969 incorporating the South Carolina State Library Board and the former State Library, Miss Walker became Librarian of the newly formed South Carolina State Library. On June 30, 1979, Miss Walker retired as State Librarian, ending a career of almost thirty-five years of State service.
From 1946 when she joined the South Carolina State Library Board until her retirement, Miss Walker directed the establishment of statewide public library service in South Carolina. In 1946, only 56 percent of the state's population received library service. Fewer than 650,000 books were contained in all of the State's libraries. Today1, all of South Carolina's population has access to the public library service, with the total public library bookstock now numbering nearly four million. State funding for public libraries also rose under Miss Walker's administration. State Aid to county libraries, originally set as an annual grant of $300 per county, is now funded at 50 cents per capita. Since the passage of the Library Services and Construction Act in 1956, the South Carolina State Library has planned and administered use of nearly $13 million in federal aid to libraries. Under her direction, the State Library has established research services for state government, library service in all state institutions, and a special library for the blind and physically handicapped. In addition to these accomplishments, Miss Walker oversaw the construction of the 60,000 square foot State Library building which was dedicated in 1970.
Among the honors bestowed upon her during her career, Miss Walker can count the Order of the Palmetto conferred by former Governor John West and honorary doctorate degrees from Presbyterian and Lander colleges.
1 This biography appeared in a program for the unveiling of Miss Walker's portrait on Tuesday, October 16, 1979. Gov. Robert E. McNair offered the presentation of the portrait, by artist Alicia Rhett. Visitors to the South Carolina State Library today may view the portrait, which is displayed on the main floor.
Miss Walker died on May 15, 1984. The South Carolina General Assembly, on May 23, 1984, passed a concurrent resolution (H. 3928) recognizing her dedication to the field of library science.