CONROE, Texas — The longest serving GOP county chair in Texas history, Dr. Walter "Wally" Wilkerson, died Friday evening after complications from recent surgery, his family said.
The Republican stalwart served the people of Montgomery County as party chair for 56 years.
"Besides serving as the longest elected Chairman of any Texas County GOP Party he was also a practicing physician for most of his life," said Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough in a Facebook post. "And so many in this community saw Dr. Wilkerson first as he was their delivering doctor."
Wilkerson was born in Marlin in 1930 and graduated from Texas A&M with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1951. He later attended UT Southwestern medical school in Dallas, graduating in 1955.
Medicine brought him to Houston and later Montgomery County, where he joined a Conroe medical practice as a family medicine practitioner three years later.
Politics, just like medicine, changed significantly over the decades for Wilkerson. The doctor had a bold idea to bring the Republican party to Montgomery County in 1964, long known as a Democrat party stronghold.
"When I started promoting the virtues of the Republican party in Montgomery County, we were a blue county with no Republican officeholders," Wilkerson told the Houston Chronicle in 2019.
Wilkerson had enormous success in the decades to follow and had a reputation as a GOP kingmaker.
Karl Rove, chief of staff during the George W. Bush administration, gave Wilkerson the nickname, "King Wally," for his uncanny ability to pick electable candidates for the Republican ticket.
His efforts to turn Montgomery County paid off. Since 1995, no Democrat has held higher office.
Texas lawmakers gave an outpouring support for the longtime GOP leader. State Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe said Wilkerson will be remembered for his legendary leadership.
"I hope we will all take the time to reflect on the impacts Dr. Wally had on our community and the Republican Party in the days to come as we celebrate his time on earth," Metcalf wrote in a Facebook post.
Speaker of the Texas House, State Rep. Dade Phelan said Wilkerson's "work and legacy" will be long remembered for years to come in a Twitter post on Saturday.
Texas has lost an extraordinary icon in GOP politics, Dr. Wally Wilkerson. He served in Montgomery County as Party Chairman for 50+ years, was a Navy veteran, and impacted many lives through his medical practice. Dr. Wally’s work and legacy will always be remembered. pic.twitter.com/AD5gKq7b4o— Dade Phelan (@DadePhelan) April 30, 2022
Wilkerson decided to not seek reelection for another term as Montgomery County GOP chair in 2020.
He was 91.