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The Whiteboard Jungle: Hoover High produced an infamous graduate

February 28, 2014|By Brian Crosby

On March 28, Glendale High School will rename its auditorium the John Wayne Performing Arts Center in honor of its most well-known alumnus.

This led me to wonder if Hoover High had any famous graduates of its own who may qualify for naming rights for its edifices.

The good news is that I did, indeed, find someone famous; the bad news is that it is someone infamous.

First, allow me to flashback to a few weeks ago when I attended a UCLA Film Archive screening at the Hammer Museum in Westwood as part of the director Anthony Mann film retrospective.

The movie was the 1948 film-noir minor classic “He Walked By Night,” the star was budding TV actor Richard Basehart and the locations were in Hollywood, Burbank, and Glendale.

After the opening credits, text appears boldly proclaiming in all caps that “this is a true story,” quite unusual for a movie back then, with the added disclaimer that “only the names are changed to protect the innocent.”

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This may have been one of the first uses of such a statement. As a footnote, one of the supporting actors in the film is Jack Webb who later developed the radio and TV series “Dragnet.” It just so happens that Webb made quick friends with the L.A. police officer who was a consultant on the picture, which then gave him the idea for a program based on police cases.

As soon as I got home that night I immediately started researching the real story of Erwin Walker, who grew up in Glendale and worked as a radio dispatcher for the Glendale Police Department in the early 1940s.

After serving in the Army during World War II, he came back a deranged man, killing California Highway Patrolman Lorin Roosevelt near the intersection of Brunswick Avenue and Los Feliz Boulevard. He escaped arrest by traveling through the storm drain system beneath Los Angeles. Due to an arsenal of stolen weapons left behind, he was known as Machine Gun Walker.

After being captured, Walker was found guilty and sent to San Quentin’s Death Row. Thirty-six hours before his scheduled execution in 1949, a botched suicide attempt ended up saving his life. His mental state was a constant matter of discussion, and in 1961, then Gov. Pat G. Brown (the current Brown’s father) commuted Walker’s death sentence to life imprisonment.

In 1974, Walker was granted parole, living freely until his death in 1982, never once expressing remorse for killing the peace officer.

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