FORT WORTH, Texas - Dan Walker, an Army war veteran who was honored for gathering and burying a US flag that was burned in protest during the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, has died. He was 81.
Mr. Walker, who was captured by television cameras carefully retrieving the flag remnants so they could be buried properly, died Wednesday of prostate cancer at his Fort Worth home.
Mr. Walker told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after the incident that he felt compelled to act after seeing someone try to stomp out the fire.
“I didn’t want someone sweeping it up with a broom and putting it in an ashcan,’’ said Walker, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War.
The man who burned the flag was convicted under a Texas law banning desecration of the flag. That conviction was thrown out in 1989 by the US Supreme Court, which ruled that flag burning was a constitutionally protected form of free speech.
Mr. Walker’s son, Rusty, recalled being shocked but not surprised when he turned on the national news the night of the flag burning and saw his father.
“He was a West Point graduate, and when he saw them burning the flag, he couldn’t stand it,’’ he said.
Mr. Walker disposed of the ashes according to flag care guidelines and buried them in his backyard.
He was later presented with the Army’s highest civilian award and received a letter from President Reagan.
His pastor said Walker did not like all the attention.
“My sense is he saw what was happening and reacted instinctively,’’ said the Rev. Ken Horton, senior pastor of McKinney Memorial Bible Church, where Mr. Walker was a member.