Thanks to Elisabeth for suggesting Walker as our Baby Name of the Day.
This one is clearly an occupational surname, but I’m always surprised by the job itself. Walkers literally walked on unprocessed wool, to clean and thicken it. They’re also known by other names, like fullers.
It has a long history as a common surname, so no surprise that there have been men named Walker for generations. He ranked in the US Top 1000 from 1880 through 1955.
The name’s comeback starts with the White House. In 1981, George Herbert Walker Bush became Vice President of the United States, serving under President Ronald Reagan. By 1983, Walker had inched back into the US Top 1000.
He stayed on the fringes for a few more years, until Chuck Norris changed things.
Norris filmed an action flick, starring as J.J. McQuade, a former Marine turned Texas Ranger in Lone Wolf McQuade. The year was 1983. A decade later, the concept was rebooted for the small screen, but because of various ownership issues, Norris’ character was renamed Cordell Walker.
Walker, Texas Ranger was tremendously popular, running for eight seasons, through 2001. In 1993, the name ranked #646. By 2001, Walker stood at #399.
That’s a big gain, but still leaves him slightly outside of the mainstream.
In 2006, the Will Ferrell movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby gave us one of the best wacky, totally inappropriate baby naming moments on the silver screen, when Ricky introduces his sons while saying grace at the dinner table:
Walker and Texas Ranger, or T.R. as we call him …
There is something slightly outlandish about choosing the action hero’s name for a child, and Walker faltered after the series left the air, even as another George Bush – with the middle name Walker – was in the White House.
There are a handful of other associations. In The Walking Dead, zombies are referred to as walkers. Not a pleasant association, but probably not a deal breaker, either.
I’ve also heard walker used as a term to refer to a woman’s escort for a social event – it seems like a rather genteel, Southern term with no negative associations, putting Walker in the same camp as Beau.
And now, of course, there’s Paul Walker, the late actor, known for his role in The Fast and the Furious franchise and for his tragic death in a car crash in 2013.
Of course, there’s no shortage of famous Walkers – literary giant Alice, trailblazing entrepreneur Madam C.J., blues guitarist T-Bone, scientists, athletes, and politicians aplenty – and there’s no shortage of reasons to use the name. It’s the surname of Tommy, title character of The Who’s rock opera. And the fictional family at the center of Brothers and Sisters shared this surname on television from 2006 through 2011.
For the last few years, Walker has been quietly creeping back up the popularity charts, reaching #369 in 2013. We’re very into W surnames for boys nowadays, plus Walker strikes a balance – a little bit rugged and independent, but still preppy and accomplished.
Walker is less obviously aggressive than names like Slade, but he retains an air of capable masculinity. He’s a good choice for parents after a compromise name that is familiar, but not too common.