Walter Richard (Dick) Walker was born in Hackney on 22nd July 1913. The family moved to Dagenham when he was a child. At the age of 13 he was chosen to play for Dagenham Boys. His father was unemployed at the time and so the family had great difficulty raising the 3 shillings to buy a pair of football boots.
Walker was also unemployed when he left school. He did play football for Becontree Athletic and eventually found work as an electrician's mate. In 1932 Walker was spotted by a scout working for West Ham United. After an extended trial he signed for the club in 1933. He made his debut as right-half against Burnley in August, 1934. Later, Walker recalled: "The first professional football match I ever saw, I was in."
Walker made his debut as right-half against Burnley in August, 1934. He played two more games that season. Other players in the West Ham United squad at the time included Jim Barrett, Charlie Bicknell, Alfred Chalkley, Jimmy Collins, John Morton, Len Goulden, Joe Cockroft, Stan Foxall, George Foreman, James Marshall, Jimmy Ruffell and Ted Fenton.
It was not until the 1936-37 season that Walker replaced Jim Barrett at centre half and became a regular member of the West Ham United team. In the 1937-38 season Walker played in 32 of the 42 league games. The following season he played 43 league and cup games and some journalists thought that he was good enough to play for England.
Walker was idolised by the West Ham fans. As Charles Korr pointed out in his book West Ham United (1986): "Walker's effort for his team was total, and supporters responded to that. They had a special place in their affections for the sometimes self-deprecating humour that Walker demonstrated when he exchanged jokes with the crowd leaning over the "chicken run". No one ever mistook his humour for not caring about the game: any opposing players who did would have been brought down to earth abruptly. Walker personified the East Londoner's need to work hard for anything he wanted and the humour that acted as a buffer against the harshness of everyday life. He combined that with a kind of swagger that made people realize that playing football for West Ham was something special."
Walker held his place in the team up until the outbreak of the Second World War. According to Tony Hogg, the author of Who's Who of West Ham United (2005): "Had it not been for the war it is highly probable that he would have been capped for England and also challenged Jimmy Ruffell's appearance record for Hammers."
The Football League decided to start a new competition entitled the Football League War Cup during the Second World War. The entire competition of 137 games including replays was condensed into nine weeks. Walker was a member of the West Ham United team that played against Blackburn Rovers in the final at Wembley on 8th June 1940. Despite the fears that London would be bombed by the Luftwaffe, over 42,300 fans decided to take the risk of visiting London. The only goal was scored by Sam Small after a shot from George Foreman had been blocked by James Barron, the Blackburn goalkeeper. Walker later commented: "Most of the lads had an informal cup winning reception in the Boleyn pub near the ground. We got back there in time to get in a few pints before closing time. I remember my medal going round and round the public bar."
Most professional footballers were given the opportunity to become Physical Training instructors in the British Army. However, Walker decided to volunteer for active service. Promoted to the rank of sergeant he served with an infantry battalion who fought from El Alamein to Italy and was several times mentioned in dispatches. He also represented the Army at football while in the Middle East.
After the war he replaced Charlie Bicknell as captain of the club. Ken Brown lived in the same road in Dagenham as Walker: "He was a wonderful man. I lived in the same street as him. The kids would watch him walk the length of the road to where his mum lived and we would look out of the window and be amazed that this was Dick Walker!"
In August 1950 Ted Fenton took over from Charlie Paynter as manager of West Ham United. Walker clashed with Fenton. "I didn't like him and he didn't like me". Walker saw Fenton's actions as: "A matter of taking over from someone popular and wanting to show you're in charge."
Malcolm Allison claimed that: "Ted Fenton would cheat you out of anything. We played an England amateur side. There were 22,000 at the match. The FA always gave you £5 to play against an FA team. We used to get £2 as a bonus. When we went to get our money we only got the fiver. They said it was £3 for playing and £2 bonus - they tried to do us out of two quid." Just before the next game against Nottingham Forest, Allison organized a strike. He told Fenton that the team refused to play unless he gave them the £2 that he owed them. Allison added: "He went upstairs, came straight back down and gave us the money."
Ken Tucker also complained about Ted Fenton: "The Arsenal players told me that they had got ten guineas for a game with England Amateurs, that was the FA's rate for such matches. When West Ham played against them Ted only gave us £5. Apparently the cheque had gone to Ted and he paid us in cash."
Walker remained a regular member of the team until the 1951-52 season. Walker played his last game for the first-team against Plymouth Argyle on 18th February 1953. Over the next four years he continued to turn-out for the reserves and helped to coach the young players at the club.
Ken Brown has fond memories of Walker: "I was a bit of a skinny lad and Dick Walker thought I should put on weight otherwise, according to Dick, I should never last. Andy Malcolm had a car and Dick would take the two of us up to Soho every Friday night for a glass of stout and a big steak and kidney pie, full of meat and gravy." John Lyall also praised Walker's attitude towards the young players at the club. He would be given responsibility for those young players who Lyall described as "Dagenham-type lads".
At the end of the 1956-1957 season Walker's playing contract was not renewed by Ted Fenton. Instead he offered Walker a job "to attend to the players boots" at £4 a week. In other words, the former captain ended up doing the job he had done as a groundstaff boy 25 years previously. It is believed that Fenton treated Walker badly because he was so popular with the players and fans that he feared he would replace him as manager of West Ham United.
Following his testimonial match against Sparta Rotterdam Walker left the club. Walker worked as a coach for Dagenham F.C. and later became a full-time scout for Tottenham Hotspur. According to his son, Mike Walker: "He (Dick Walker) bought on many young talented players and did a great service to young players, finding accommodation for out of town lads and taking them back to his house where him and his wife, Tina, would feed them and make them feel special."
Charles Korr interviewed Dick Walker when he was writing his book, West Ham United (1986): "I have fond and vivid memories of the afternoon that I spent with Dick at the lounge at White Hart Lane when I interviewed him for the book. The setting might have been somewhat strange, but he clearly felt at home and looked like the sharp dresser and men with a zest for life that had been described to me."
Walker retired after 20 years with Tottenham Hotspur. Dick developed Alzheimer's Disease in the last couple of years of his life and became a recluse confined to his house. In 1985 he went into hospital where he stayed until he died in January in 1988.