OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - For the first time since being released from federal prison, the former executive director of the Department of Marine Resources is speaking out.
Dr. Bill Walker spent three years in custody, after pleading guilty to a single fraud conspiracy charge in the Spring of 2014.
Dr. Walker enjoys quiet time at home these days as a free man.
In prison, he made the best of it. "Everybody had jobs. My job was working the garden. So I was out there digging dirt and hoeing weeds and doing that work, and it was okay," Walker recalled.
Caught up in the corruption probe at the DMR, Walker says he never intended to break the law. He said, "I did think that I was always doing right things. I never thought that I was doing anything illegal or wrong for that matter."
Federal prosecutors convinced him otherwise, hinting at more serious charges to come. "He convinced me that the only choice I had was to plead guilty to that one thing," he noted.
Walker was shocked to learn of a five year sentence, the maximum allowed for his charges. "I didn't expect it to be that harsh or that long, but that's the wisdom of the judge," he recalled. "He chose to do that and he did it."
Perhaps his wife Sharon suffered the most, traveling great distances to visit all the time. "It was not easy. But they needed me and I needed to see them so we got through it," Sharon explained.
He believes the experience has granted him a new outlook on life, stating "I think you go through a negative experience like that, you come out better on the other end. I do believe that."
Despite the tarnished last year at the DMR, Walker believes he left a positive legacy behind. "We went through Katrina, we went through the oil spill. I think the outcomes of recovery from those two disasters went very well."
Even with prison time, Walker is not bitter and still believes in the justice system, despite its flaws. "I don't agree with everything that comes out of the justice department or the justice system, but you can't dwell on that."
Now, playing the doting grandfather suits Walker just fine and gives him hope for the future. "Those three boys are the thing that we look forward to every day. Just seeing them and being with them and sitting and reading stories or playing with them or chasing around the house."
Walker also has a message for both his supporters and detractors. "Let's move forward together. Let's work together to make this gulf coast better."
That's a promise he intends to keep.
Walker also says as he becomes more acclimated to life outside of prison, he wants to become more involved in community events.