Through sheer perseverance driven by the Great American Dream, he rose from the mean streets of the South Bronx lined with crowded tenements and burned out buildings that he calls his neighborhood, Jimmie Walker was able to educate himself and become one of the most popular TV personalities of his era and named Comedian of the decade of the 70s by Time Magazine. While growing up, he never had any illusions about working as a stage performer because his life was focused on the basketball courts in the company of other youths who preferred the hard court camaraderie than the promise of a school education. At fifteen, he realized that his skinny six-foot frame was not meant for professional basketball.
Drifting from one low-paying odd job to another, Jimmie Walker decided to attend Theodore Roosevelt High School under the federally funded SEEK program where his studies were focused on mathematics and literature. One day, when he floored his SEEK classmate with a comedy piece that he wrote, he discovered his innate talent for tickling people’s funny bones. After high school, Jimmie enrolled at the RCA Technical Institute and within a year, he was a licensed radio engineer and was hired on a part time basis by WRVR, a small local radio station. His desire to be a performer led him to successfully audition for an opening act for The Last Poets at the East Wind in Harlem where he built his stand up act and confidence during the next 18 months.
By 1969, Jimmie Walker was performing at the African Room in Manhattan together with aspiring talents such as David Brenner, Bette Midler and Steve Landsberg with whom he later also performed at Budd Friedman’s Improv in New York where they became crowd favorites and stage regulars. Then, the group appeared on the “Jack Paar Show” where Jimmie was spotted by Dan Rowan who took him to Los Angeles to guest on “Laugh In,” and by 1972, he was performing in top comedy clubs. He broke into the big time when he was cast to play the role of J.J. Evans in “Good Times,” an urban styled TV comedy series that would run for six years and where his catch word, “dyn-o-mite” would catapult him to nationwide fame. For his work in the series, Jimmie Walker earned the distinction of becoming the first winner of the NAACP Image Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actor in a comedy series.
Aside from appearances in major TV shows, Jimmie Walker would co-star in movie films opposite luminaries such as Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier. Despite his hectic schedule, Jimmie continued to be a headliner at top comedy clubs where his team of joke writers included young Jay Leno and David Letterman.
A Republican, Jimmy Walker is a commentator on social issues and is a conservative columnist at Jewish World Review. Despite his fame and success, he has not forgotten his poverty stricken past. He continues to support several charities, the most notable of which are the United Negro College Fund and the Jimmie Walker Memorial Scholarship that aims to help young black aspiring comedians obtain an education and get a good start in the entertainment world.