As the first Black trooper in a small northern Virginia town in 1973, Junius Walker was not welcomed by his white colleagues – with one exception. Betty Samsky, who worked in the department, didn’t like how the others treated the new guy. She made a point of befriending him.
“We were friends a long time and one day we looked at each other and realized it was more than friendship,” she recalls. Being a biracial couple in the late 1970s wasn't easy. “It wasn’t a friendly environment,” Betty says.
But Junius was too big a man – too big-hearted, too big a personality – to let such obstacles stop him. He loved Betty, whom he married, and he loved his work. “He was a proud member of the Virginia State Police,” Betty says. When he would get up in the morning he would put that mantra on before he ever started getting dressed.” He rose to Master Trooper and resisted when his superiors pushed him to take the sergeant’s exam. “He didn’t want to work in an office,” she adds. “He wanted to be on the road.”
The road was where he could help the most people – including the more than 100 rookie troopers he field-trained over his 40 years in law enforcement, the last 29 stationed in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. He was an institution. “He was so helpful with the other guys that whenever there was a problem they wouldn’t go to the sergeant first, they went to him,” Betty says.
He and Betty had two children, Vera and Clarissa, and Junius also had a son, Derrick, from a previous marriage. Grandchildren came in time, Jaylen Michelle, Jackson Walker and Chloe Elizabeth.
“He was talking about retiring so he could spend more time with his grandbabies,” Betty says.
On March 7, 2013, he saw someone in distress – a car stopped on the side of Interstate 85 – and pulled over to help out. The driver shot and killed him.
A watch which started in isolation and ill-will ended in an unparalleled community outpouring of grief, affection and respect. An overflow crowd of three thousand turned out for his funeral, including police from all 50 states.
A stretch of I-85 is now the Master Trooper Junius Alvin Walker Memorial Highway, a fitting tribute for a man for whom the road was a route to service.