Fred Livingood Walker, commander of the Thirty-sixth Infantry Division during the Italian campaigns of World War II, was born on June 11, 1887, in Fairfield County, Ohio, the son of Belle (Mason) and William Henry Walker. During his college days (1907–11) at Ohio State University, he was a member of the Ohio Cavalry and graduated as an engineer in 1911. He entered the army that year, following a competitive examination, and as a second lieutenant he was stationed in San Antonio. From 1911 to 1914 he served with the Thirteenth Infantry Regiment in the Philippines. From 1914 to 1916 he was stationed in Eagle Pass and served under Gen. John J. Pershing during the punitive expedition into Mexico. In 1917, at the beginning of World War I, Walker was sent overseas, and in 1918 he was in the second battle of the Marne; for exceptional gallantry in combat he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. After the war he was assigned as an instructor at the Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia; he was commandant of Shattuck School in Faribault, Minnesota, from 1927 to 1932, and graduated in 1933 from the Army War College in Washington, D.C., where he served as instructor from 1934 to 1937. He was then assigned to the Fifteenth Infantry at Tientsin, China. In 1941 he was in San Antonio as a brigadier general, assistant commander of the Second Division.
From September 1941 to July 1944 Walker commanded the Thirty-sixth Texas Infantry Division. In World War II after a brief period in North Africa the Thirty-sixth Division made a successful landing on September 18, 1943, at Salerno, in southern Italy, the first American troops to invade the continent of Europe. Walker was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his leadership. He commanded the division through the battles of the Rapido River, Cassino, and Mt. Artemisio on the drive north through Rome and beyond; all were successful except the battle at the Rapido River, an attempt which General Walker advised against because of insuperable odds, and this failure resulted in heavy casualties for the division. Walker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster for his part in the Italian campaign before he left Italy to assume command of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, in July 1944. After the war, in January 1946, the Thirty-sixth Division Association, composed of division veterans, met in Brownwood, Texas, and passed a resolution calling for a congressional investigation of the battle of the Rapido River, a defeat which they charged was due to the inefficiency and inexperience of General Mark W. Clark, who had ordered the attack contrary to the repeated recommendations of the subordinate commanders. The United States congressional committees of military affairs in both the House of Representatives and the Senate invited witnesses to appear, but the Congress did not order a full-scale investigation.
Concerning the Italian campaign Walker wrote "My Story on the Rapido River Crossing" (Army, September 1952) and "The 36th Was A Great Fighting Division" (Southwestern Historical Quarterly, July 1968). His book From Texas to Rome (1969) is his journal of the division's World War II experience. In recognition of Walker's service with the Thirty-sixth Division, his portrait was hung in the state Capitol in Austin. After Walker's retirement from the regular army as a major general on April 30, 1946, he was appointed lieutenant general and commander of the Texas National Guard by Governor Coke Stevenson, to reorganize the guard, a post he held for fourteen months. Walker was married to Frances "Julia" Martin Messmore on August 19, 1911; they had a daughter and two sons. After Mrs. Walker's death in June 1961, Walker was married to Margaret Millikan on August 30, 1962. Fred L. Walker died at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., on October 6, 1969, and was buried in Kirkersville, Ohio, where he had made his home. The Walker diaries and papers were left in the possession of his son Lt. Col. Charles W. Walker.