© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cora Faith Walker, St. Louis County official and former state representative, has died

Cora Faith Walker
Jason Rosenbaum
St. Louis Public Radio
Cora Faith Walker served as chief policy officer for St. Louis County. The former state representative, a Ferguson Democrat, served in Missouri’s 74th District.

Cora Faith Walker, chief policy officer for St. Louis County and a former state representative, has died. She was 37.

Walker's death sent a shock wave through the St. Louis region, where the influential attorney and health care advocate had many friends and allies.

“Cora walked into my office every day with a hundred ideas and the determination to do them,” St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said in a statement. “She was a passionate public servant who advocated for women, newborns, survivors of sexual violence, reproductive rights, seniors, and frontline healthcare workers. She will be greatly missed by her St. Louis County government colleagues and me.”

Walker joined Page’s administration in 2019. Before that, she served as a state lawmaker. The Ferguson Democrat won her election to Missouri’s 74th District seat in November 2016 after running unopposed. She was reelected in 2018.

Her tenure in Missouri's legislature was marked by a focus on expanding access to health care and health and mental health issues; she sat on the House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee. Walker also served on the state’s Children and Families Committee.

“We are all shocked and heartbroken at the sudden loss of an incredible friend and a brilliant advocate for so many,” Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said in a statement. “Cora Faith will be remembered as a fighter and a person who dedicated her life to making the world better.”

Walker’s focus on health extended beyond her career as an elected official. Before joining the legislature, she was a faculty member at St. Louis University School of Law and the health law and policy fellow for St. Louis University's Center for Health Law Studies. Walker also worked at the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Born in St. Louis, Walker spent her childhood in Tuskegee, Alabama. She returned to the region to attend Washington University. She then attended St. Louis University School of Law, where she received her law degree and health law certificate. Walker returned to Wash U to earn a master's degree in public health.

Walker received many awards, including the Empower Missouri-St. Louis Legislator of the Year award, the Washington University in St. Louis Brown School’s Distinguished Alumni Award and the NARAL Pro Choice America Rising Star Award. She was also a part of astatewide task force started by United Women’s Empowerment aimed at helping women rejoin the workforce after many left during the coronavirus pandemic.Walker was also an advocate for abortion rights, attending rallies and actions condemning abortion bans.

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri leaders said in a tweet that they grieve the loss of Walker and that their hearts are with her family.

“She showed us what courage looks like, how justice can transform our lives, and the collective joy of fighting for liberation,” the Planned Parenthood officials posted.

But Walker also became a prominent voice in the years following the Ferguson Uprising.In a 2016 interview on Politically Speaking, she said she and her husband moved to Ferguson to help move the community forward.

“There are a lot of systemic issues and challenges that the community faces right now,” Walker said in 2016. “Before we can talk about what solutions are to those problems, we have to acknowledge that those problems even exist and that those challenges even exist, and have open and honest conversations about what those challenges are.”

In the same interview, Walker spoke on her own political influences, including Tishaura Jones, then St. Louis' treasurer, whom Walker described as a mentor.

In a tweet, Mayor Tishaura Jones said the region “lost a giant.”

“It’s not often in life that we find friends that become members of our family,” Jones said. “I am so grateful to have had a sister in Cora. Her light and her energy is something she shared with many of us. She made it her mission to help others.”

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.