Associate Superintendent Royce Walden, the son of a train porter from Sanford, retired in 1992 as the highest-ranking black administrator in Orange County Public Schools. To those who came behind him, Walden was a role model, an inspiration, a mentor.

"He was almost iconic in how he got so far in a system that didn't have a history of promoting blacks," said Ron Blocker, Orange County's first black school superintendent.
But Walden, who died Friday at age 84 after multiple health problems, will be remembered for far more than his achievements in education. His years as an educator, businessman, benefactor and mover-and-shaker impacted those throughout the black community and beyond.
When Emerson Thompson came to Orlando in 1976, it was Walden who advised him about the organizations he should join, the boards he should serve on, the people he should know, and the things he should avoid.

"He stopped us from stepping on land mines," said Emerson, 64, a senior judge with the Fifth District Court of Appeal.

Walden moved easily between the black and white communities, among the poor and the affluent.
"He didn't look up to the rich, he didn't look down to the poor," said Dennis L. Jackson, 76, a former Orange County educator who first met Walden in 1971.

Eddye K. Walden, his wife of nearly 62 years, saw the qualities in Royce that would make him successful when they first met as students at FAMU. He was ambitious, no-nonsense and direct. Initially, she wasn't exactly sure what to make of him.

"He was very candid, very self-assured," said Eddye Walden, 84, of Orlando.

Over their years together, she watched her husband ascend in stature, respect and influence in Orlando. He became the first black president of the United Way of Central Florida and the Orlando Utilities Commission. He helped found the Washington Shores Savings Bank and was a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He held positions on both the historically black Guardian Care nursing home in Washington Shores and the affluent Mayflower Retirement Community in Winter Park.

In 2010, Junior Achievement of Central Florida inducted him into their Mid-Florida Business Hall of Fame.
"He broke a lot of barriers just by his willpower and his intellect," said Jim Pugh, 75, his friend and developer.
But Walden also maintained friendships that went back to childhood. He grew up in the black neighborhoods of Sanford with James Wilson, the legendary Jones High band director. The two friends went to FAMU together, roomed together and played on the Marching 100 band together.
Last Friday, Wilson visited his old friend and they shared that both had dreamed they were kids again in Sanford. They reminisced about their childhood friendship, riding their bikes to each other's houses, watching Roy Rogers movies at the movie theater, and then pretending they were cowboys.

Wilson closed his eyes and asked his friend to keep talking, taking him back home again. Hours later he died.

Besides his wife, Royce B. Walden is survived by his daughter, Donna Walden, of Orlando; brothers, Joseph Walden, of Orlando, and Truby Walton, of Deltona; three grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

Mitchell's Funeral Home, Orlando, is handling arrangements. or 407-420-5392.