State investigates Checker Hall of Fame fire

Published 11:06 pm Saturday, October 6, 2007

Investigators are going through 4- to 5-feet of rubble in hopes of determining what caused a fire that damaged huge sections of the International Checker Hall of Fame in Petal.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office and Petal Fire Department are participating in the investigation.

The Sept. 29 fire destroyed about 20,000 square feet of the 35,000-square-foot building. No one was hurt.

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Fire Chief Richard Bryant said Friday that the city has already sent out bobcats and back hoes to help clear the way for the investigation.

“We may know something by next Tuesday, but it’s not a guarantee,” Bryant said.

He said because the debris is so deep, it is going to be a process that takes time.

The Checker Hall of Fame was founded by Charles C. Walker in 1979 as part of his home.

Walker closed the hall of fame in January 2005 and resigned as president of the World Checker Draught Federation after his arrest on federal money laundering charges.

In 2005, Walker was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty. The 74-year-old Walker is serving his sentence at a federal prison in Montgomery, Ala.

According to Walker’s grandson Taylor Drake, Walker’s wife, two sons and one of Drake’s cousins still lived in the home. All of them were able to escape the fire unharmed, Drake said.

The blaze scorched a majority of the main house where Drake said his grandmother’s and cousin’s rooms were.