Born in Athens, Michigan in 1891, Walker obtained his Bachelor in economics from the University of Michigan in 1920, and his Master of Arts in economics from Harvard University in 1938. Walker started his academic career in 1920 teaching economics at the University of Michigan. In 1922 he moved to the University of Iowa, where he was appointed professor of commerce.
In 1926 he moved to the Harvard Business School, where he became Professor of Business Administration in 1936.
Between 1931 and 1936 Walker had taken a leave of absence from Harvard to served as treasurer of the Hamilton Woolen Company. During his years at Harvard Walker also worked as consultant for many companies in the industry.