Copyright © 2012 StarNewsOnline.com
Reprinted with permission
Walker Taylor III, a prominent Wilmington insurance executive and philanthropist who became a prominent national lay leader in the Episcopal Church, died Tuesday evening at the age of 87.
Funeral services will be held 10:30 a.m. Friday (Sept. 21) at First Presbyterian Church. Burial will follow in Oakdale Cemetery.
Taylor served more than 60 years as president of the Walker Taylor Agency, founded by his grandfather in 1866, making it the oldest insurance agency in the city.
In the 1960s, however, Taylor took an 11-year sabbatical from his business to work with the Episcopal Church on the staff of its presiding bishop.
He served for several years as executive officer for moral responsibility in the Anglican Communion, which meant he traveled the world "to learn about what the church is and what it should be doing," he told StarNews correspondent Laura Moore earlier this year. His travels took him to the South Pacific, to South Africa and to much of Latin America.
Taylor also traveled extensively in the United States, visiting Indian communities as a staff member with the church's mission board.
"He was one of the greatest Christian men I ever knew," said the Rev. Ronald G. Abrams, rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Wilmington, where Taylor served as senior warden, a vestryman and a Sunday school teacher.
Taylor served two terms on the Episcopal Church's National Executive Committee and was a deputy to seven of the church's general conventions.
Closer to home, Taylor was a founding board member of the Cornelia Nixon Davis Nursing Home in 1966 and continued to serve as it grew into the Davis Communities. He became chairman of the board in 1996, serving until earlier this year. In May, the Davis Communities named the Walker Taylor III House in honor of his service.
Taylor also spent a half century on the board of the Brigade Boys and Girls Club, serving terms in nearly every office and raising tens of thousands of dollars for the club, according to executive director Jeff Green.
Born in Wilmington on Dec. 14, 1924, the son of Walker Taylor Jr. and the former Fannie Grainger, Taylor attended Tileston and Forest Hills schools and graduated from New Hanover High School. He attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, earning a degree in nautical science in 1944, then served as a deck officer on an oil tanker in the North Atlantic during World War II.
After the war, he entered Davidson College, graduating with an English degree in 1948 before rejoining the family firm. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean conflict.
In 1955, Taylor served as local disaster relief chairman with the Red Cross when Hurricanes Connie, Diane and Ione hit the area. While riding out one of the storms at the Wilmington YMCA, he met a fellow volunteer, Ethel Avera. The couple were married in 1956 and eventually had four children and nine grandchildren.
Among other community services, Taylor was president of the N.C. Azalea Festival in 1959, a president of the Babies Hospital Foundation and chairman of the board for Wachovia Bank in Wilmington. He chaired a major restoration fund drive for Oakdale Cemetery.
Taylor was a trustee of the General Theological Seminary in New York, a trustee of the University of the South at Sewanee, Tenn., and a trustee of Berkeley Divinity School, the Episcopal divinity school at Yale University, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in canon law.
In 2011, Taylor received a Razor Walker Award from the Watson School of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington for distinguished service to the children and youth of North Carolina.
Ben Steelman: 343-2208