Walter Banks, Sr.
Coach Walter Banks was born and rested in New Orleans, Louisiana and graduated from Gilbert Academy. He attended Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and earned a degree in secondary education.
In 1951, he began teaching at the recently opened Scotlandville Junior High School as the Industrial Arts teacher and later joined the faculty at Scotlandville Senior High School. It was there he met Bob “Smitty” Smith, Head Football and Track Coach. One day Coach Smith asked Banks if he could take a starter’s gun, line up the sprinter and pull the trigger to start. That’s what got Banks started in track. When Coach Smith left, Banks became head track coach at Scotlandville Senior High School in 1961. In 1962 and 1964 they were state runners-up, in 1963 they finished third, and then in 1965, the “Flying Hornets” captured the Louisiana State Championships. Coach Banks was quoted as saying “Winning that state title was the biggest sporting thrill of my life!” Working alongside Coach Melvin Stringer, as his assistant and exceptional athletes: Everette Mason, Kirk Clayton, Avon Honey and others, they finally captured their dream.
Banks love for the sport was evident by the role he played as timer on the field for Southern University track and field events, in particular, the Pelican Relays. Not only did he participate on the field, but also off the field. His daughter, Beverly, recalled how after some Pelican Relays his home became entertainment headquarters for Track and Field stars; Rafer Johnson, Rosie Grier, Wilma Rudolph and boxing champion Muhammad Ali after his star -stuffed performance at the 1960) Olympics.
Years later (around 1970). Banks would become the first African American timer at the LSU track meets, where he witnessed the evolution of integration on the track field.
In 1990, he led the way by being inducted into the LSU Track and Field Official’s Association Hall of Fame as the first African American inductee. He never strayed from giving credit to the ones who helped him along the way. “my success in large part is due to the coaches I worked with and the ones I competed against; Claude Paxton, Tex Turner, Raymond Lockett, Charley Granger and others”.
His love for athletics was evident by his participation in the Southern University Quarterback Club. He served as President and fought hard to get the club to sponsor a raffle each year for a new car. After a long convincing discussion, it was approved by the organization which to this day is still active.
In addition to his first on the field, he enjoyed being one of the first African American recipients of a master’s degree at LSU and the first African American Assistant Principal at Baker High School.
Singing and acting was not his passion, but it could have been as demonstrated by his active participation in the Baton Rouge Community Chorus and Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church Choir. He was a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
His greatest gift to our community may have been the impact he made on all the young people he encountered. You say “ Coach Banks” to the students of Scotlandville High School in the 1960’s and 1970’s and they will tell you how they remembered him and what impact he had on their lives. He was truly a “Scotlandville original”.
Coach Banks was married to the late Barbara Smith Banks and was father to the late Walter Banks, Jr. He is survived by daughters, Beverly Banks Salvant (Judge Wayne), Janet Banks Johnson (Bronco), and Staci Banks Robinson (Emmett), seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.