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Twice Adopted

Twice Adopted

Former Mayor Pro-Tem Was Adopted Twice by Age 16

BATON ROUGE — The future didn’t look very bright for the little boy born to a 16-year-old unwed mother on Dec. 31, 1948, in the small North Louisiana community of Weston. That wasn’t something that was accepted, and babies like that were often given away.

But the mother was the youngest in a family of five girls, and when the girl’s father looked down at the newborn, he said, “I wanted a boy!  We’ll keep him!”

So, instead of being given away at birth, little Mike Hudson was adopted by his grandfather and grandmother and got to stay with his family.  Although there was a lot of pain along the way and he never met his biological father, Mike said, “I was always loved!”

Times were hard for the Hudson family.  His adopted father worked at the paper mill in Hodge but it wasn’t enough and the family worked hard on their little farm to try to raise enough to eat.

Mike learned to hoe the corn, plow the fields, and tend to the animals.  The family raised vegetables and had a small orchard.

He plowed behind his draft horse, who was named Dot. He grew strong and tall.

The family attended a primitive Baptist church.  There was no music in the church, and singing was a cappella.  Mike was baptized in the creek.  On Sundays, there was dinner on the grounds.  His favorite song was Sweet Hour of Prayer.

In the Weston community, everyone knew everyone else.  “If the well went dry, there was always someone to give you water and help you dig your well a little deeper,” he remembered.

But his adopted parents were getting older and were in declining health.  Money was short, and they couldn’t afford to pay the bills.  They needed to give Mike away to someone who could take responsibility for his upbringing.

“My biological mother wanted to take me back and adopt me, but she had a husband now, and he refused,” Mike said.

It was 1962.  Mike had only been to Baton Rouge a couple of times.  It was so different from the rural area of North Louisiana where he had spent his entire life.

Mike Hudson’s adopted parents asked one of their other daughters to take care of Mike, and she and her husband, John Walker, agreed.

At age 14, Mike moved to Baton Rouge.  Judge Pugh insisted that the Walker family formally adopt him, and he became Mike Walker.

The family lived in Sherwood Forest, and Mike enrolled in the 9th grade at Broadmoor High School.

“It was hard at first, being a rural kid and moving to the big city, but people at Broadmoor were wonderful to me, and I made a lot of friends,” he said.

He was an unforgettable person standing over six feet tall and with bright red hair.

His new father, John E. Walker, who is now 88, had also moved to Baton Rouge from North Louisiana.  He was successful in real estate here, and Mike’s life changed.  “I remember being able to go to Don’s and charge the meal to my dad’s account!  That was something!” he said.

During high school, Mike got a job at the Exxon station across from the Putt-Putt on Florida Boulevard.  He earned 60 cents an hour.  “That wasn’t bad,” he said, “because gasoline was only 25 cents a gallon!”

He graduated from Broadmoor High in 1966 and got a small scholarship to attend Louisiana Tech in Ruston.  But the expense was a burden on his family and he returned to Baton Rouge to attend LSU.  Then, during his senior year, his life changed forever.

“To this day I don’t know how it all happened, but one day Mrs. Letha Carpenter, who was quite influential in parish politics, called and asked me if I would speak on behalf of Mayor-President Woody Dumas at a couple of events.  I did so.  Apparently, the mayor was pleased, because a few days later, I had a visit from Ray Burgess [who was DPW director] and Cotton Harris [a City Councilman], offering me the job of being Mayor Dumas’ top assistant.”

It was a remarkable offer for a young 23-year-old from North Louisiana.  He accepted the offer and became Chief Administrative Officer of the City-Parish government.  It meant, quite literally, that he would be running the parish government —at age 23!

It was a far cry from his days behind the plow on their little farm in Jackson Parish.

Woody Dumas served as Mayor for 16 years — longer than anyone in Baton Rouge’s 200-year history, and Mike Walker was his right-hand man.

“I couldn’t have had a better mentor,” he said.  “People tell me I’m a lot like him, and I consider that a high compliment.”

Over the years, Walker served as administrative coordinator in the Clerk of Court’s office under three clerks.  He built a real estate business.  And he has served as a member of the Metro Council and then as Mayor Pro-Tem.

But the little boy who was adopted twice will always be the essence of who he is.

“It gives me perspective and an appreciation for all persons, no matter what their background.  I know what it’s like to have to scrap for a meal, or to have an account at Don’s!” he laughed.

His experience also made Walker a strong advocate for the right to life.  “They could have decided not to have me or they could have given me away.  But people chose to love me, and that made all the difference!”

— By Woody Jenkins, Editor

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The Capital Republican is a news site devoted to Republican and conservative issues and activities in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, area.

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