Remembering and honoring Walter Springs

This December marks 80 years since Regis student and soldier Tech. Sgt. Walter Springs was shot to death in Texas by a U.S. Army military police officer. Next year, Regis and its Porter-Billups Leadership Academy expect to award its first Walter V. Springs Memorial Endowed Scholarship.

In the Fall/Winter 2020 Regis Magazine, we told the story of the young man who was a member of the Regis football and boxing teams, was voted “Most Popular Student” – and likely was the University’s first Black student. As a Regis student, Springs converted to Catholicism and was baptized on campus.

But World War II interrupted Springs’ efforts to become the first in his family to earn a college degree. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor forced the United States into the war, Springs left Regis and enlisted in the Army. Like many other Black men who served then, Springs said he hoped his service would inspire greater respect for Blacks in this country.

Springs never had a chance to fight the country’s enemies overseas.

On Dec. 17, 1942, Springs returned to Bastrop, Texas after visiting family and friends in Denver. He was scheduled to begin officer training at nearby Camp Swift the following day. But, after his train arrived in Bastrop, Springs stopped in a café. There, a white military police officer demanded Springs’ identification and an explanation of why he was out past curfew. An altercation followed, and the officer shot Springs. The former Regis student lived only long enough to receive Last Rites.

His classmates didn’t forget Springs. After the war, they established a scholarship in his honor, an effort that generated widespread interest and support – including a donation from jazz legend Louis Armstrong during a visit to Denver. After his story was told in the Regis magazine, the scholarship effort was revived, and Walter Springs again received widespread interest. In November 2022, the Denver magazine 5280 published its own account of Springs’ life, service and death.

The new version of the Walter Springs scholarship will be awarded to PBLA graduates. In 1996, Regis University Men’s Head Basketball Coach Lonnie Porter established the leadership academy to provide academic and leadership training to at-risk students from Denver. NBA All-star Chauncey Billups, currently head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, joined the academy in 2006.

The scholarship winner will join the 229 students who have already graduated from PBLA, 99.5 percent of whom graduated from high school on time. Of those graduates, 81 percent attended or are attending college; 35 percent of them graduated from Regis.

Walter Springs never had the chance to graduate from Regis. But the scholarship that honors him assures that his name live on as it helps make a college education possible for other deserving students.

Donations to the Walter V. Springs Memorial Endowed Scholarship fund may be made here. Select the Walter V. Springs Memorial Endowed Scholarship in the drop-down menu.