Wirt Dudley Walton was born on 18 Apr 1895 in Kansas, the youngest son of Arthur and Nancy Walton. His parents were teachers. He was raised in Leavenworth, Kansas, along with his siblings: Harriet, Herbert, Albert, Lawrence, Edgarine, Trew, Alberta, and Ruth. He graduated from Leavenworth High School in 1915.
On 10 Sep 1917, he entered K-State, studying agriculture. Interestingly, he gives his year of birth as 1898, instead of 1895. Between May of 1918 and Aug of 1919, he served 11 months and 21 days in the US Army, which earned him credit for five classes: military science III and IV, and physical education II, III, and IV. He took courses during the summer semesters of 1921-1924. At this point, his focus changed to music and he took classes only during the summer semesters in 1926-1928.
He lived at 618 Yuma in 1919 and 1920, before moving to the Phi Beta Sigma Chapter House, 1020 Colorado, where he stayed until 1924. Interestingly, although his address never reflects this, he worked for banker, W. D. Womer, in a position that included room and board. This is known because he passed his job along to Louis Fry in 1924. He only attended summer classes from this point onward, while he may have lived in the Chapter House during the summers of 1926-1928, there is no documentation. He married Awilda Brown in either 1927 or 1928. She was a Zeta Phi Beta sorority member and graduated in 1927 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics.
He graduated from K-State on 01 Aug 1928 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture. He earned advanced credit from the University of Kansas during the summer of 1931. He earned a master's degree from Columbia University in New York, and studied organ at Washington University.
In 1930, he became a public school teacher at Sumner High School in St. Louis, Missouri. His sister, Nan Edgarine Walton also taught at Sumner High School during this time. The 1930 Sumner High School Maroon and White faculty listing shows he lived at the West End Hotel and was teaching English and Science. His brief bio reads: "Graduate, Leavenworth High School, Leavenworth, Kan.; Kansas State College, Fortworth, Kansas University; Instructor, Virginia Manual and Industrial Institute, Petersburg, Va.; Georgia Normal and Agricultural College, Ga.; Member, St. Louis Musical Organization; Sponsor, Intermediate Orchestra; Instructor Intermediate Operetta; Instructor, Sumner Intermediate School."
The 1946-1947 Missouri School Directory shows that he was still teaching at Sumner High School. He was also listed as a teacher at Stowe Teachers College during that year. He taught music at Stowe Teachers College and Harris Teachers College. He retired from Harris-Stowe State College in 1965, where he was an assistant professor of music.
An accomplished musician, he taught music in St. Louis and Kansas City. Famed for his a capella choirs, he was also a band and orchestra leader in the St. Louis area. He formed the "Choraliers," a community-based group composed of many of his former students. He served as organist and choirmaster at All Saints' Church. Helen Phillips and Metropolitan Opera star Robert McFerrin were two of his former students who distinguished themselves in music.
Wirt Walton died on 21 Feb 1987, in St. Louis, MO. Awilda (Brown) Walton died on 12 Apr 1987.
Wirt Dudley & Awilda (Brown) Walton, 1934
Sumner Faculty, 1930
K-State Directory, 1919-1923
Royal Purple, 1921-1924
1900 Census: Kansas - Leavenworth County - Leavenworth Ward 5 - District 98
1910 Census: Kansas - Leavenworth County - Leavenworth Ward 5 - District 101
1920 Census: Kansas - Leavenworth County - Leavenworth Ward 5 - District 106
1930 Census: Missouri - St. Louis (city) - St. Louis - District 127
World War I Draft Registration
Social Security Death Index
Obituary: Feb 1987, unidentified newspaper
1930-1937 Maroon and White, Sumner High School year book (courtesy of St. Louis Public Library)