JOSEPH M. WALKER was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on July 1, 1784. Although his education was limited, he became well read on many subjects, and was fluent in Spanish, French, and English. In 1807, he went to Mexico and joined the Spanish army, serving as a lieutenant of dragoons, and later becoming master of a military school at Chihuahua. During the War of 1812, he served in the Louisiana State Militia, fighting in the Battle of New Orleans, and rising to the rank of brigadier general. Walker entered politics in 1820, serving as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, a position to which he was reelected in 1822, 1832, and 1836. He also was elected to the Louisiana State Senate in 1824, was president of the 1845 State Constitutional Convention, and served as the Louisiana state treasurer from 1845 to 1849. Walker won the 1849 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor on November 5, 1849. He was sworn into office on January 28, 1850, becoming the first governor to be inaugurated in the new capitol building in Baton Rouge. During his tenure, water transportation was advanced, a levee building was created, a drainage program was authorized, and a nationally ranked banking system was instituted. An educational system initiating statewide public schools was approved, the election of public bureaucrats by popular vote was endorsed, and railroad development was supported. Walker was opposed to the sanctioning of the 1852 constitution, and shortly after its adoption, he resigned. After leaving office on January 18, 1853, he retired from public service, and returned to his Rapides Parish plantation. Governor Joseph M. Walker passed away on January 26, 1856, and was buried on his plantation in Rapides Parish.
Dawson III, Joseph G. The Louisiana Governors: From Iberville to Edwards. Baton Rouge: Lousiana State University Press, 1990.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.