Charlie Walker was born into very modest circumstances on May 27, 1932, in Salina, Kansas. While growing up, he lived with his mother, aunt and uncle, and two cousins. Walker attended Salina public schools through the ninth grade, when he dropped out to begin working. In 1947, the 15-year-old took a job working construction in Dodge City. Soon after, he moved to Pueblo, Colorado, and found employment at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Steel Mill. Although he was satisfied with his job, Walker enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He served his 4 ½ year term in the flight engineering division, where he learned self-discipline and gained an understanding of what it takes to be successful.
After completing his Air Force term, Walker spent a brief time as a salesman in Seattle, Washington, before returning to Salina, family in tow. In 1957, he started his first business delivering wholesale tobacco and candy to small businesses in the area. By 1963, Walker and his wife had six children. His income was sufficient but Walker was not satisfied with what he was doing. So he moved on to his next venture.
In Colorado, Walker had first seen vacuum trucks used to clean heating and air supply duct work. He felt he could make a better machine, and he did just that. Walker’s success with his Power Vac truck gave him an appetite for the manufacturing business. In 1967, he designed a totally self-contained, mobile, power-wash truck that could be used for everything from swimming pools to parking lots to buildings and construction equipment. The concept caught on quickly, and Allied Mobile Power Wash became Charlie’s primary focus. In 1969, the power wash line was picked up by the well-known ServiceMaster Company.
Walker noticed that a large part of the customer base for Allied Mobile Power Wash was semitruck drivers. He saw the opportunity to better meet their needs by providing a fullservice, 24-hour, truck washing facility. Thus, the idea behind Blue Beacon Truck Wash was born. The first facility was opened in May 1973, and the company added locations as quickly as they could as Blue Beacon gained popularity throughout the trucking industry. Today, Blue Beacon operates 112 locations in 37 states.
Walker has done more than his share for the Salina community as well. In 1999, he created Rolling Hills Zoo to showcase native and exotic animals, and to help educate the public to the plight of a growing number of endangered species. In 2005, Walker contributed a wildlife museum to the attraction. The facilities continue to be a source of enjoyment for all who visit. In 2001, Charlie contributed the lead gift to create Salina’s teen center, "The City.” Charlie’s family has also made other significant donations to organizations such as Salina Catholic schools, Salina Rescue Mission, and the campaign to erect the Kaye Pogue Hospice Center.
However, the most meaningful gift given by the family was the lead donation to build Tammy Walker Cancer Center. The center is named in memory of Walker's daughter, who succumbed to lung cancer in 1962 at age 11. The facility provides Salina and the surrounding communities with the same visionary treatments that previously could only be provided by large research hospitals.
In recognition of his leadership success and contributions to the community, Walker was inducted to the Salina Business Hall of Fame in 2005. Charlie Walker died in 2012.