District Heights, Md. Mayor James L. Walls Jr. was in his third term as mayor of his city. (Courtesy photo)
Condolences poured in from around the Washington, D.C. region following the sudden death of District Heights, Md. Mayor James L. Walls Jr.
Walls was found dead in his home in District Heights, a majority Black municipality a few miles east of the District of Columbia, on May 12. Walls was 39.
Upon his first election, Walls was the youngest mayor in District Heights’ history, and was the youngest to sit on the city’s board of commissioners. He was re-elected to a third term in 2014, and previously served a stint as the District Heights city manager.
Walls was the past president of the Maryland Black Mayors Association and was the president of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials. In 2011, he was elected the youngest president/CEO of the World Conference of Mayors, a position that he held until his death.
Prince George’s County, Md. Executive Rushern Baker III called Walls’ death a loss to the county.
“I join the residents of District Heights and all Prince Georgians as we mourn the passing of the Rev. Dr. James Walls Jr.,” Baker said in a statement. “Mayor Walls was also very engaged outside the boundaries of the city of District Heights, serving as the minister of International and Community Affairs at the Forestville New Redeemer Baptist Church. Mayor Walls was taken from us too soon.”
“His spirit of selfless public service and devotion to God benefitted the lives of the citizens of District Heights and others throughout Prince George’s County. He possessed a strong passion for the county and it was a pleasure to work with him over the past five years,” Baker added. “His unwavering dedication and tenacity will surely be missed by the people he represented in District Heights. He did a great deal to improve the lives of his constituents.”
Spencer Overton, the president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, expressed grief at Walls’ death.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and family of Mayor Walls, as well as the residents of District Heights and the members of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials,” Overton said.
Eddie Martin, the vice mayor of District Heights and a member of the city’s board of commissioners, had a long political relationship with Walls.
“My thoughts go out to his family,” Martin told the AFRO. “It is difficult to lose a colleague and a friend. We were like Batman and Robin. As a matter of fact, I was supposed to go to an event for him in the near future. He asked me ‘can you take care of this.’ He was a great politician and cared for the people of District Heights.”
Under the District Heights charter, Martin is the acting mayor of the city. He said the commissioners will vote among themselves to select the next mayor following services for Walls.
“We are looking at possibly a funeral on Saturday, May 21,” he said. “We are expecting a large crowd for this so we will have it at the city’s municipal building.”
Martin also said that there will be a prayer service for Walls on May 18 at the Hemingway AME Church in District Heights starting at 7 p.m.