"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."
Hadley is hoping the movie will reinvigorate interest in Robinson. Kids around these parts need that kind of towering figure to inspire them.
Cairo has about 10,000 people; 48% are black. The average household income here is $28,755. Many kids are growing up in single-parent homes.
"I'm hoping this movie can show them they can make it," Hadley said.
The timing of the movie coincided with another effort by the city of Cairo, one of the first not initiated by Walden. This year, the city renamed its Boys and Girls Club after Jackie Robinson, and there's now a ball field in his honor at Holder Park, where the club is located.
On a Wednesday afternoon, the club fills up right after school gets out. Some of the kids are only 6. Others are about to enter high school. They do homework in a room called "Breaking Barriers" before they run outside to play.
Charles Renaud, 49, one of the club's founders and a former county commissioner, said the movie served as a catalyst but that the effort to rename the club had been in the making for a long time.
He believes there's no use in dwelling in the past. Just embrace the present.
"Make no mistake about it. We have issues," he said. "But let's learn from the past and move forward. Let's pick a greater good and work for the kids."
He acknowledged Walden's longtime campaign to honor Robinson. The Boys and Girls Club, he said, brings new perspective.
"Give me six years, when our kids start going through the system," he said. "There will be a child who will say the Jackie Robinson Boys and Girls Club kept them out of trouble."
Last month, Robinson's daughter Sharon joined her relatives Walden and Hadley for a gala event in Cairo to raise money for the club.
Pamela Grigg, director of the downtown library who also served on the board of the Boys and Girls Club, said the dinner was a huge deal for Cairo. She could tell that some people there felt some embarrassment that it had taken so long for the community to come together behind Jackie Robinson.
County Commissioner T.D. David said he'd never seen so many people join together for a community purpose.
"It's proper recognition that's come very late," he said, "but it's very sincere."
Walden said she hopes the community is finally coming around.
"In the end it's not about me. It's not about Jackie. It's about what they had in their hearts."
Lehman, the attorney, said Robinson's name will shine in Cairo. Even among people whose grandparents might have once run Robinson out of town.