The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, pianist, and educator George Walker, whose life marked many firsts for an African American classical musician, died on August 23 at age 96. Born in Washington, D.C., he was a gifted pianist who began performing in his early teens, and by age 18 he had completed his bachelor’s degree in music from Oberlin College. He was the first black pianist to play at New York City’s Town Hall and the first African American graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied piano and composition. The original goal was to be a concert pianist—but his race, he felt, hindered his career in the U.S., and he turned to composition. In 1956, Walker became the first African American to receive a doctor of musical arts from the Eastman School of Music. In 1996, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra, set to Walt Whitman’s lament for Abraham Lincoln and premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His works include sonatas, quartets, and numerous chamber works, one of the best known being his 1946 Lyric for Strings. His works for orchestra include Tangents for Chamber Orchestra, Poème for Violin and Orchestra, and a Mass for Soloists, Chorus, and Orchestra. From 1969 to 1992 he was on the faculty of the music department at Rutgers University, and he also taught widely. This fall, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra performed Walker’s Lyric for Strings on its opening-weekend program in his memory.