West Virginia Encyclopedia Published

January 4, 1980: Musician John Homer Walker Dies in Princeton


Musician John Homer Walker died in Princeton on January 4, 1980, at age 81. The Mercer County native was raised in Summers County and lived much of his adult life in neighboring Glen Lyn, Virginia. He usually worked as a laborer and farmhand.

“Uncle Homer,” as he was affectionately known, learned to play clawhammer-style banjo from his mother and uncle. He picked up traditional songs, like the old spiritual, “Steal Away,” from his grandfather, who was born a slave.

“Uncle Homer” Walker was a popular performer during the folk revival of the 1960s and ’70s. He appeared regularly at the John Henry Folk Festival, the Vandalia Gathering, and the Appalachian South Folklife Center. He was featured at the Smithsonian Institution’s Festival of American Folklife and was the subject of the 1977 film Banjo Man.