Leon Cross was Wade Walker’s assistant athletic director for 14 of Walker’s 16 years as the Oklahoma AD. Cross long has championed some kind of recognition for Walker’s service and remains committed to the cause.
Cross, who played football at OU under Bud Wilkinson, now is retired and splits his time between Norman and New Mexico. In recent years, Cross says he has contacted Steve Owens, Joe Castiglione and Joe Washington in hopes of gaining some recognition for Walker, who was OU athletic director from 1970-86.
Walker was one of Wilkinson’s ’49ers, the group that arrived as World War II-veteran freshmen in 1946 and jump-started the Sooner dynasty. He was an all-American and a four-time all-conference tackle, then went into coaching. Walker joined Darrell Royal’s staff at Mississippi State, 1954-55, and when Royal moved to Washington, Walker became Mississippi State’s head coach and athletic director. He coached the Bulldogs six years, stayed on as AD and in 1970 replaced Gomer Jones as the Oklahoma AD.
Walker was not a big personality. He never was out front with the public. But under Walker, OU athletics underwent a transformation.
“We hadn’t any major improvements in our athletic facilities for over 20 years,” Cross wrote in a letter of support for Walker.
With Walker as athletic director, OU renovated Memorial Stadium, with the west-side upper deck, the south end zone seating and new pressbox, coaches offices, locker rooms, equipment rooms, meeting rooms and training center.
Under Walker, OU also built Lloyd Noble Center, Mitchell Park, the Viersen Gymnastics Center, the Mosier Indoor Facility and the Wilkinson House dorm. That’s an amazing list of athletic infrastructure.
Walker moved to California in 1986 and remains there, retired in his mid-80s.
“Wade is one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known,” Cross wrote. “He has the respect and admiration of all who know him … OU has not recognized him for all the things he has done to enhance our great athletic tradition.”
Cross suggests an athletic scholarship endowment in Walker’s name, which would be very nice. But just bringing back Walker for a football game or basketball game would be a solid gesture. Recognize him at halftime. Let younger OU fans know of the leadership of one of the greatest Sooners ever in both exploits and leadership.