Born: May 4, 1907
Died: April 29, 2014
Town: West Hoboken
Walter Rudolph Walsh was born May 4, 1907 in West Hoboken and grew up in what is now Union City. Swept up in the patriotic spirit of World War I as a boy, he became interested in law enforcement and fascinated by firearms. His father gave him a .22 rifle when he was 12 and honed his skill shooting rats in the nearby Meadowlands and picking clothespins off his aunt’s laundry line.
Walter lied about his age and joined the Civilian Military Training Corps during the summer of 1923 at 16. He proved to be a phenomenally good shot. A left-hander, he was unbeatable in competition. He joined the National Guard when he turned 21.
Walter attended Rutgers and earned a law degree in 1934. He joined the FBI soon after, at the height of the bureau’s war against high-profile gangsters. The bureau had just begun arming its agents, and Walter was a natural. He could hit a bullseye from long range with any kind of rifle, and—perhaps more helpfully in his new job—could nail moving targets with pistols in both hands.
Walter was involved in the gun battle with Baby Face Nelson in Illinois that took the lives of two agents. Walter followed a tip the next day and discovered Nelson’s body in a ditch. Two months later, on an icy Chicago street, Walter ran down Doc Barker, son of the notorious Ma Barker. In 1937, Walter led the team that killed Public Enemy #1 Al Brady during a wild gun battle in a Maine sporting goods store. He actually posed as a gun sales clerk for several days waiting for members of the Brady gang to come in. He was shot three times during the battle, during which he fired a .45 with his right hand and a .357 magnum with his left.
Walter joined the Marines during World War II, achieving the rank of colonel, and saw action in Okinawa. During the invasion, his unit was pinned down by a Japanese sniper nearly 100 yards away. Walter killed him with a single shot to the chest—with a pistol. Unfortunately for the sniper, he had encountered a man who was already considered the best shot in the service. Walter had joined the FBIs pistol team shortly after he became a G-Man and in 1939 set a world pistol-shooting record with 198 out of 200 points.
After the war, Walter returned to the FBI for a few years before serving as the commander of marksmanship training for the Marine Corps, training countless sharpshooters. He won many service tournaments during this time. Walter also decided to try his hand at international competition. He made the 1948 Olympic team but finished a distant 12th in the 50 meters free pistol. In 1952, Walter won silver at the World Shooting Championships in the 25 meter pistol event. In all, he was named to the All-American pistol shooting team five times. He also coached the U.S. Olympic shooting team until 2000.
Walter was a crack shot into his 90s, and did not need glasses until he was 92. He became the FBI’s oldest-living agent in 1998 and in 2003 became the longest-living Olympian in history. He passed away one week short of his 107th birthday on April 29, 2014 at his home in Virginia.