Henry Walton of Mendenhall, Mississippi, grew up in Waycross, Georgia, the son of a high school principal. He was seven years old when his father took him to see a performance by Birch the Magician and it inspired him to take up magic as a hobby.
In this episode, Walton discusses that experience and the Gilbert Mysto Magic Sets he later received for Christmas. He began collecting books on magic, learning card and coin tricks to fool his friends and family. Walton also recalls how a high school variety show gave him the chance to debut as a magician before a large audience.
After WWII, Walton traveled the South, installing telephone office equipment for Western Electric. While stationed in Tampa, he met a man well-known by magicians for building quality magic apparatus. He remembers how Warren Hamilton offered to build him an entire magic show and sponsored his membership in the International Brotherhood of Magicians.
After moving to Mississippi and getting married, Walton decided to take up magic, again, as a hobby. When Birch the Magician came to Jackson to perform, Walton took his wife to see his childhood inspiration. It was there he met Jackson magician, Gene Grant, and the two men became friends. He recalls how they formed a Mississippi chapter of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (local chapters are called “rings” after the famous linking rings trick). Soon, “Ring 98” was attracting members from across the state to their monthly meetings where they performed for each other and the public at special events.
PHOTO: Walton performs at Jackson Mall, 1974.