E. Cardon “Card” Walker, who succeeded Roy O. Disney as president and CEO of The Walt Disney Co. in 1971, passed away on Monday, Nov. 29. The 89-year-old succumbed to congestive heart failure at his home in La Canada, Calif., leaving behind a legacy that includes timeless cinematic classics, enduring theme-park attractions and the Disney Channel.
Born in Rexburg, Idaho, Walker moved to Southern California and landed a job in the Disney mailroom in 1938. Over the years, he rose through the ranks and worked closely with Walt and Roy Disney on such memorable projects as the feature films 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book and Mary Poppins, as well as the theme-park staples It’s a Small World, Meet Mr. Lincoln, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. He was also instrumental in the purchase and development of the 28,000 acre spread in Central Florida that would become Walt Disney World.
Following Walt Disney’s death, Walker become exec VP and chief operating officer of he company and later took on the mantle of president of CEO when Roy O. Disney passed away. In 1980, he was named chairman of the board and helped shepherd such initiatives as the development of EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland and the creation of the Disney Channel. He retired as CEO and chairman in 1983, but continued to serve as a consultant until 1990.
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Card Walker,” comments Walt Disney Co. president and CEO Robert Iger. “Card was instrumental in keeping Disney strong and growing in the critical years that followed the passing of founders Walt and Roy Disney. There is little question that, were it not for Card Walker’s vision and leadership, Disney would not be what it is today.”
“Card was a predecessor of mine as CEO and I was privileged to consult with him throughout much of my tenure at the company,” adds recently resigned Mouse House CEO Michael D. Eisner. “Thanks to his deep understanding of the company and its founders, talking to Card was the next best thing to talking to Walt himself. Card successfully steered this company through a challenging time of transition, establishing an incredibly strong base for success on which Disney continues to build.”
During his tenure at Disney, Walker was named Pioneer of the Year by the Foundation of Motion Picture Pioneers, received an Alumnus of the Year Award from UCLA and picked up the International Showmanship Award from the National Association of Theater Owners.
Walker is survived by Winnie, his wife of 59 years, his three children, Mignonne Walker Decker, Marnie Gaede and Cardon Walker, and five grandchildren, Katie, Matt, Dillon, Marcus and Miles. Funeral services will be private and donations can be made in lieu of flowers to the Make-a-Wish Foundation at 1-800-322-9474 (www.wishla.org).