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Former WITCO chairman Audley Walker dies
The business community is mourning the death of Audley Lawson Walker, former managing director and chairman of the West Indian Tobacco Company Limited (Witco), who died at 1.30 am on Tuesday at West Shore Medical in Cocorite. Yesterday, two of Walker’s successors at Witco were among those paying tribute. Current managing director Jean Pierre du Coudray said Walker was largely responsible for the success the company enjoys today. “When I joined WITCO in 2001, the company was already a market leader. That was because of the foundation that Audley Walker set when he was managing director. A lot of our success is because of the hard work that he did,” said du Coudray. “His managerial skills were important from a strategic point of view. He was the main person who was responsible for introducing the Du Maurier brand in the 1970s and today it is a national brand. Walker was a visionary and a had a vast amount of knowledge,” he said.
Du Coudray said Walker's death was a huge loss” for Witco. “He was a grandfather of the family. Even after he retired in 1998 he was always at all our functions like the Christmas party, the pensioners party. Walker always inspired us,” he said. Tony Phillips, who succeeded Walker as managing director in 1998, praised his integrity and “leadership by example”. “I first met him when I joined Witco in 1973. He was a mentor to me and I became very close to him over the years.” Phillips said he also admired Walker for his ability to strike just the right between between his job and family. “Family life was very important to him and he always made time for his wife, Lucille and their four daughters. His wife was always at his side at public functions.” Barbadian born Walker came to T&T in the 1950s to attended the prestigious Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture at St Augustine, forerunner to the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Right after he qualified as an agromomist in 1957, he was hired by Witco which was expanding its tobacco growing efforts to Tobago. Walker was assigned to the sister island where he pioneered Witco’s tobacco production operations. During his years working in Tobago, Walker became acquainted with ANR Robinson, then a promising young attorney and politician, who also passed away this week. When he returned to Trinidad, Walker was appointed leaf manager, in charge of acquisition of tobacco and operational functions at a time when Witco was trying to be self sufficient with its supply of tobacco. He became a director of the company in 1971 and also served as acting general manager. Walker was seconded to Witco’s sister company, the Demerara Tobacco Company in Guyana, from 1978 to 1980. When he returned from that overseas posting, he was elevated to the positions of managing director and chairman of Witco in 1980. He held those positions until his retirement from Witco in 1998.
Walker, an ardent sportsman who played cricket and golf, played a key role in the Witco Sports Foundation over most if its years in existence. A true giant in the business world, he was president of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce from 1989 to 1991 and also served on the regional body, the CAIC. He served as a director on the board of Scotiabank, as well as Telco, the telecommunications company that preceded TSTT, and also found time to serve with the Agricultural Society of T&T, the T&T Orchid Society and other local organisations. Audley Walker’s funeral is scheduled for next Tuesday at the Chapel of Ease in Maraval