Calif. Flag
Calif. Flag
THE CURSE OF William G. Walker

Walker 1929
Who was Chief  William G. Walker?
--- Chief Narc, State of California:

Next to Harry J. Anslinger, William G. Walker was probably the most complex individual to come out of the Reefer Madness era.
    Was he an honest cop - YES

    Was he deceitful - YES

    Was he a hard worker - YES

    Was he a liar - YES

    Did he take part in the Reefer Madness Campaign - YES

    Did he oppose the Drug War - YES

    Did he arrest people for Medical Marihuana - YES

    DID HE . . . .
AGAIN he was a very complex individual -- In a way we can say that there was a William G. Walker No. 1, No. 2 and a No. 3.   Each very different and each varying greatly from one to the next.

WALKER THE PROHIBITION AGENT – aka William G. Walker No. 1
The first Wm. G. Walker was quite an idealist and quite dedicated to his profession of law enforcement.   And like Elliot Ness and his untouchables, this guy couldn’t be bought, bribed or sold.   He simply wouldn’t take a bribe no matter what; A very unusual thing given the shakedowns cops were notorious for during the days of alcohol prohibition.

A factor that explains part of Walker’s meteoric rise to prominence during his earlier years.   Born in 1885 he went to work for the Internal Revenue Bureau in 1918.   He was only 25 when Prohibition was enacted into law.   As he did not drink (even before prohibition), it was only natural that he would be transferred into the Bureau of Prohibition (later on to be called the Bureau of Narcotics, and today known as the D.E.A.).

At first everything started out ok, and in the words of Billy Sunday;
“The reign of tears is over.   The slums will soon be only a memory.   We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs.   Men will walk upright now, women will smile, and the children will laugh.   Hell will be forever for rent.”
Yeah!   That lasted for a little while too.   As Wm. Walker was quoted as saying:   “He declared it hardly conceivable that any person would risk a fine up to $1,000 and six months in jail just for the sake of a few drinks” And needless to say we all know what happened next.   But as for walker (who seems to have believed that the law was a good one), he did his professional best to keep California as free of alcohol as possible.   And probably would have died a great unknown had (just as in Harry Anslinger’s case) lady luck not interfered.

Somehow in 1925 he got involved with the Fresno City Police department, just at the right time and at the right place.   To quote a newspaper article:
“He served a period (1925-1929) as Chief of Police in Fresno, taking over that job after the Fresno Chief of Police and 13 other Fresno police officers were arrested (themselves) for Prohibition Act violations.”
Thus (more in desperation than for any other reason), he was chosen to become Fresno’s Chief of Police, with instructions to clean up the place.   Which he seems to have done, and soon Lady Luck would once more come to his aid.   It seems that while he was away from the Bureau of Prohibition, a scandal irrupted there as well.   According to the SF Chronicle” [June 8, 1929p1]:
“Six Accused Dry Agents Freed on bail; Shakeup of Force Expected”
“With eight agents of Prohibition Administrator E.R. Bohner facing trail under accusations of theft of property during bootleg raids, and further arrests expected . . . etc. "
And thus Walker (whose hands were clean) was named prohibition administrator for the Western States. --- Note, he was the 15th person to hold that job.   All the others before him had (ah), gotten into trouble of one sort or another . .

But as one newspaper article puts it:
“By the time Walker stepped into his job, bootlegging was an established fact, speakeasies were flourishing, the rackets were going strong, hijackers were shooting each other up in their struggle for the loot.”
BUT even Walker (untouchable or not) would have a hard time enforcing the unenforceable.   The following newspaper articles pretty much sum up the career of Wm. G. Walker No. 1.

San Francisco Chronicle
[S]- March 23, 1921 p7] “Sensational Developments in Alcohol Steal by “Women’s bootleg Ring “ Is Promised”
[S]- June 8, 1929 p1 “Fresno Police Chief Slated as Successor, Say Backers”
[S]- June 20, 1929 p1 “Fresno Police chief Chosen Successor to E.R. Bohner”
[S]- June 29, 1929 p8 “Doran Admits Walker Likely Prohi Choice”
[S]- July 15, 1929 p6 “Dry Chief Selection Overdue”
[S]- July 20, 1929 p21 “Special Dry Post Assigned Smith
[S]- July 29, 1929 p10 “Bohner’s Dry Post Goes to W.G. Walker”
[S]- Aug 3, 1929 p2 “Fresno to Bid Goodby To Chief Walker”
[S]- Aug 7, 1929 p3 “Bohner Retires Today as Dry Administrator, Walker Prepares to Take Post”
[S]- Aug 8, 1929 p6 “Wm. G. Walker Takes Oath, Becomes new S.F. Dry Chief”
[S]- Jan 3, 1930 p13 “Briggs Lauds Walker Rule”
[S]- Jan 22, 1930 p4 “Walker Due in S.F. Today”
[S]- Jan 29, 1930 p4 “Walker Dry, Seaver Also Bans Liquor”
[S]- Mar 20, 1930 p6 “Promotion of Walker, Prohi chief, Hinted”
[S]- April 2, 1930 p14 “Dry chief Returns From Washington”
[S]- June 27, 1930 p2 “Walker Kept in Prohi Post as Area Head”
[S]- Sept 7, 1930 p14 “Prohi Chief Summoned by Federal Jury”
   Inquisitors Reported Split Over Methods Used by Walker’s Agents
That the Federal Grand Jury is split over the methods used by Prohibition Administrator Walker became known yesterday as a summons was issued for Walker to appear before the jury next Wednesday and explain the operations of his office.
According to one Grand Juror, a group of thirteen jurors has been voting to indict petty offenders while a group of ten has steadfastly refused to penalize them.   This latter group is said to believe manufacturers and wholesalers are being overlooked in the rush to arrest one-bottle men.
Walker was reported out of the city yesterday.
Foreman W.N. Jenkins of Oakland said there was no dissension that the jurors merely wanted to acquaint themselves with the working of Walker’s office.
“There has been no disharmony in the jury,” said Jenkins.   “From time to time we have had Federal department executives before us by invitation to instruct us as to the nature of their work.   No formal summons was issued for Administrator Walker.   He was merely invited to appear.   Just at the close of the last meeting a juror said he thought it would be a good thing to have the administrator give the jury an intimate idea of his work and the suggestion was adopted.”
Despite Jenkins’ denial, however, rumors persist about the Federal building that a dissension of six weeks or more was brought to a head at the last meeting when some of the jurors disclosed they had been receiving elaborately engraved invitations to the opening of luxurious bootlegging establishments.
The majority group of jurors---are said to be of the belief the Grand Jury has not the authority to launch investigations of its own a moot question all over the country.   The minority fact is said to decry the arrest of small retailers, while bigger offenders are slipping through the net.
The last Federal Grand Jury, of which Dr. James Franklin Smith was foreman, gave prohibition enforcement in San Francisco a most caustic lashing when the jury retired last July.
Enforcement was called” stupid” and “laughable,” and its processes were referred to as “a specie of chincanery” by the retiring jury.   Undercover agents were branded “chronic alcoholics,” prohibition agents were charged with membership in a secret order with creed and racial bias and San Francisco was held up as a city flooded with good imported liquor while the Government devoted its powerful enforcement machinery to crushing picayune offenders. "

[S]- Sep 11, 1930 p12 - “Prohi chief Fails To Visit Grand Jury”
[S]- Sept 21, 1930 p5 “Walker Leaves for Meet”
[S]- Sept 28, 1930 p1 “S.F. Wet Tip Startles Prohi Head”
[S]- Sept 30, 1930 p13-- “S.F. Wetter Than Sacramento, Walker Holds in Row. Officers Find it Difficult to close Dens
[S]- Dec 18, 1930 p6 “Dry Chief Will Warn Hotels”
[S]- Mar 10, 1931 p6 “Prohi Shooting Quiz by Grand Jury Delayed”
State Authorities Await Result of Appeal to Washington
"Lack of cooperation on the part of Prohibition Administrator Walker,” was given by Assistant District Attorney Isadore M. golden as the reason for not bringing before the County Grand Jury last night the case of Prohibition Agent Willard A. Long, who shot Manuel Perry in a dry raid on the Embarcadero last month.
“The Long case has been carried over,” announced Golden yesterday, “until we can learn from Washington whether the Prohibition Bureau is going to help us sift this matter to the bottom.   Administrator Walker has refused to help so we have appealed to his superiors in Washington.”
Charges against Walker of lack of cooperation were made by District Attorney Brady last week after the prohibition administrator had declined to order Long to testify before the Grand Jury.   Long appeared at last Monday’s Grand Jury session, having been sent there at Brady’s request by Assistant Prohibition Administrator George Seaver.   The agent declined to testify, however, acting on the advice of Attorney Edgar Bonsall, Walker’s legal adviser.
Perry, at first thought to be fatally wounded, will be discharged form the hospital in a few days, Walker said.   Long said he fired in self-defense after Perry, his partner and their customers had beaten him.   Perry said the shooting was unprovoked.
Special Investigator George Taylor of the Department of Justice is investigating the case for Prohibition Commissioner Amos W.W. Woodcock, but he has not conferred with District Attorney Brady, the latter said. "

[S]- April 1, 1931 p9 “Rum sleuths Seek Combined Office”
[S]- April 18, 1931 p4 “Dry Chief Walker’s Headquarters Moved”
[S]- April 25, 1931 p12 Prohibition Forces Concentrated in S.F.
[S]- Aug 12, 1931 p15 “Walker Denies State Motor Job”
[S]- Jan 2, 1933 p5 “Abolishment of narcotics Bureau Urged”
State Division in Chaos, Faces Attack in Legislature -- By Royce Brier

    A move to abolish the State narcotic division was in sight yesterday on the eve of the opening of the California Legislature. The abandonment of narcotic enforcement by an organized State bureau was seen as feasible following revelations in the Chronicle that for the past three months the bureau has been virtually inoperative in blocking the more important phases of the narcotic traffic. Definite support for the move was seen in official circles
It was pointed out that the State bureau in large measure duplicates the work of police departments throughout the State, most of the large cities maintaining police squads which operate exclusively against the narcotic traffic.
The State organization, it was also explained by legislators, likewise duplicates the work of the strong and effective Federal division, which has “convicted” such huge narcotic operators as “Black Tony” Parmagine.
It was understood that Rolland A. Vandergrift, State Director of Finance, would give his support to a move to abolish the bureau as an economy measure.
Many Assemblymen and Senators, looking askance at the recent record of the bureau, would also favor such action.
The least that the bureau can expect, it was reported yesterday, was a bitter legislative investigation of the entire anti-narcotic regime in California.
The Chronicle disclosed yesterday that the bureau for the past three months has been drifting without the personal direction of George K. Home, chief of the division.
Home has spent but a few weeks of his incumbency in the San Francisco head office of the bureau and the greater part of the time it is impossible to reach him.
Friends of Home explained yesterday that some of his absences about a month ago were accounted for by illness.
During the illness, however, no one was assigned to take charge of the bureau, and as a result ten inspectors have been operating without a directing head and the bureau has not made an important narcotic seizure of arrest since last summer.
The bureau’s activities are almost exclusively devoted to arresting minor peddlers or Chinese opium violators.
Efforts to discover the exact number of arrests and the total of seizures for the last quarter of the year were unavailing yesterday.   Mr. E.K. Johns, office secretary of the bureau here told the Chronicle that the records could not be disclosed without the sanction of Home. Edward Powers, Chief of the division from June 1931 to February 1932, came forward yesterday to deny that the records of the bureau were in deplorable shape when he resigned."

[S]- Jan 14, 1933 p17 “State Narcotic bureau Ouster Urged in Bill “
[S]- Jan 16, 1933 p4] “State Narcotics Officer Rapped”
[S]- Jan 30, 1933 p4 “State Bureaus Wiped Out in Proposed bills”
[S]- April 15, 1933 p1 “Walker Out As Dry chief For California”
    "William G. Walker Federal Prohibition Administrator for California and Nevada since 1929, has been asked to resign, effective today and John L. Considine, Democrat, who held the same position in 1920, has been named to succeed him.   [more]"

[S]- April 17, 1933 pp 10 “Swift Walker Ouster Laid To complaint”
    "Dismissed Subordinate Blamed for Sudden Discharge

    Behind the virtually summary dismissal of William G. Walker as prohibition administrator for California and Nevada, lurks more than political preferment, it was authoritatively learned in San Francisco yesterday.
There were persistent rumors that the new administration in Washington has on hand complaints against Walker, one of them originating with an erstwhile prohibition agent.   [more]"

[S]- April 21, 1933 pg 3 “Walker Will Be Demoted to L.A. Dry Post” Thus it can be said that William G. Walker was ALWAYS a controversial figure -- even before he became the Head narc of California.   But in his defense (as can be seen from the newspaper headlines above), he lived in very controversial times.

Wm. G. Walker
right arrow


Due to space / download time considerations, only selected materials are displayed.   If you would like to obtain more information, feel free to contact the museum.   All our material is available (at cost) on CD-Rom format.