Soon after she established her practice, someone planted a sign on her property calling her the N-word.
She received a phone call asking for a donation of $1,000 to the fire department. She politely told them she couldn't make such a large donation.
All she heard on the other end was the N-word.
"God bless you," she replied, holding her anger. Maybe it was something Robinson inspired in her. It was his courage to not fight back when he was met with hatred that helped him win over a racist mindset, as the movie shows.
About a month later, Walden got a letter of apology in the mail.
"We have good people here -- both black and white," she said. "But change has been very slow."
Walden, 56, made it her mission to preserve Robinson's legacy in Cairo. To resurrect his name. To inspire a new generation of kids. In 1997, she founded the Jackie Robinson Cairo Memorial Institute to raise money for her mission. She eventually started a Jackie Robinson essay contest for Cairo students.
The same year, she succeeded in getting the county to rename a 10-mile stretch of Georgia Highway 93 as the Jackie Robinson Memorial Highway. She launched a campaign to have the Georgia Historical Society place a marker at the site of the 150-year-old tin-roofed wooden house on Hadley Ferry Road where Robinson was born. In 2002, Walden got a sign placed, but by then the house had burned down and all that was left was a brick chimney.
She proposed the county erect a monument of Robinson in front of the Grady County Courthouse in downtown Cairo. She even sought out a sculptor from Tallahassee -- just across the Florida state line -- who presented the county commission with a life-size cardboard depiction of how the bronze statue might look. She felt a statue would serve as a landmark for Cairo and help draw tourists.
But that didn't happen.
Lehman, the attorney, said it might have been a matter of money. Walden said she was told the land outside the courthouse was not appropriate for memorials to athletes. There's a memorial to veterans of foreign wars. After Walden's request went nowhere, the county erected a stone monument honoring the Sons of the Confederacy. A small rebel flag flutters at its side.
"I wanted it to be a tourist attraction," Walden said. "They saw it as a black man on the courthouse lawn.
"When I first started, there were more excuses than anything else. They said, 'Why are we honoring someone who didn't grow up here?' It was stunning that someone as great as Jackie Robinson would be treated this way."
But Walden was determined. It didn't matter to her that Robinson didn't grow up in Cairo. It's been said he only returned once, after he'd made it as a Brooklyn Dodger. The black people in town threw him a parade.
Walden refused to stop dreaming. She envisioned a multimillion-dollar multicultural center and museum named after Robinson. She even thought about constructing a baseball field good enough to bring spring training to Cairo.
"He won't be forgotten here," she said.
The movie and the man
"42" isn't playing yet at the old Zebulon theater in downtown Cairo. The theater can only screen reel-to-reel films and has asked Warner Brothers to send them the movie in that format.
Jack Hadley, 77, went to the Gateway Cinema 7 in nearby Thomasville to see the biopic of his relative. Hadley is Walden's uncle; his sister Delano married Mack Robinson.
A chill came over Hadley as he watched the celluloid depiction of the first black player in modern-day baseball. On screen, black people in the stadium cheered, while hatred spewed from whites, even from Robinson's fellow Dodgers, who signed a petition to get him thrown off the team.
The movie is particularly poignant in a scene in which Phillies manager Ben Chapman hurls verbal abuse -- the N-word -- at Robinson every time he is up for bat. Robinson doesn't say a word. Instead, after his last at-bat, he runs into the dugout, down the stairs and shatters his bat against the wall.
Hadley marveled at Robinson's restraint.
"I was thinking, 'Could I take it like Jackie did?'" he said.
Hadley, an Army veteran, began collecting black history items a long time ago and finally opened a museum in Thomasville, the only one of its kind in southwest Georgia. He has 3,200 pieces on the wall now -- photographs, signs, posters, dolls, old uniforms. There's a Jackie Robinson section that includes a laminated copy of a front page story of Robinson's early days. It's from the Pittsburgh Courier, the most widely circulated black newspaper at the time.
"My niece, Dr. Walden, tried her best to get them to understand they're sitting on a goldmine with Jackie Robinson," he said. "For some reason, Cairo didn't think too much of it."