CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU-WV) has selected a steadfast and fierce advocate as its next executive director.

Danielle Walker, who is currently serving as the only Black woman in the West Virginia Legislature, was named executive director at the annual Bill of Rights Dinner in Charleston Saturday evening. Walker will also be the first Black woman to lead ACLU-WV.

Walker called the job “a humbling honor” and said she is excited to get to continue her work as a collaborator for civil liberties and social justice.

“ACLU-WV is a force of representation for us all, from the mountains to the hollers of West Virginia,” she said. “I am looking forward to working with the board, staff, volunteers and other supporters for a fairer, more just future for our state.”

Joseph Cohen, who served as executive director from 2016-2022, introduced Walker as the state affiliate’s next leader. Cohen was one of two special honorees of the evening. He received the Sid Bell Award for service to the affiliate. Women’s Health Center of West Virginia Executive Director Katie Quiñonez-Alonzo received the Roger Baldwin Memorial Award for service to the state.

“Danielle Walker is a visionary leader,” Cohen said. “She is committed to the ACLU’s principles, and she will inspire the next generation of leaders in West Virginia. I could not imagine a more perfect person to take over the organization that I love so much.

Eli Baumwell, who has served as interim director since Cohen’s departure in December, applauded the board’s selection of Walker. Baumwell did not seek the fulltime director position.

"Over the past four years, I've gotten to work with Danielle Walker in her role as a legislator,” Baumwell said.  “Not only does her voting record show her clear commitment to civil liberties, but she advocates passionately, and as a representative she shows up, not just in her district, but around the state. We are incredibly fortunate that she will bring that dedication and passion to the ACLU-WV."

Board President Anne Farmer said, “Danielle Walker was hired based on the strength of her commitment to ACLU-WV issue areas, her expertise and understanding of local policy and legislative structures, her proven ability to communicate publicly on ACLU-WV issues across the political spectrum, her experience building coalitions that would enhance our work, and her inspiring vision for our future.”

Walker will step down from her roles as an elected official and as vice chair of the state Democratic Party before starting the position with ACLU-WV. She will start in the new role April 17.