Lord Walton of Detchant was a founder of Muscular Dystrophy UK (then called the Muscular Dystrophy Group) in 1959. In medical school, he specialised in neurology and later carried out early research in muscular dystrophy under the guidance of Professor F J Nattrass, establishing a new classification system based on genetic information. As John made his mark as both an outstanding young researcher and clinician, he was appointed to the position of Professor of Neurology and Dean of Medicine at the University of Newcastle. He was later appointed the Warden of Green College in Oxford.
Lord Walton was respected widely as a neurologist and expert in neuromuscular conditions both in this country and internationally. He held the presidencies of several prestigious medical organisations, including the General Medical Council (GMC), the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal Society of Medicine. He was created a life peer in 1989 and in the House of Lords his expertise and knowledge, together with his understanding of complex medical issues, earned him wide appreciation. He made telling contributions as a cross-bencher (non-Party member) to many high profile debates, which were to pave the way for research using mitochondrial-IVF donation and embryonic and adult stem cells.
As a young doctor, John Walton was moved by the impact of muscular dystrophy on the children and families in his care. In later years, he often cited with real sadness, the words of the mother who had said to him, ‘I watch my son die a little every day,’ as the boy’s muscles inexorably wasted. He knew funds were desperately needed for research, and this led him to becoming a founder and driving force behind the charity. John would have been delighted to learn just weeks before the onset of his final illness, that the first treatment to target an underlying cause of Duchenne muscular dystrophy had been approved by NICE.
John was much loved and respected as the founder of the charity, a man whose long-term vision, high standards and integrity laid the foundations for our work. We are deeply grateful for John’s huge contribution both to the individuals and families affected by muscular dystrophy and related neuromuscular conditions and, of course, to our charity. It is right to say his contribution is unrivalled and it is difficult to imagine it can ever be equalled, let alone surpassed.
Robert Meadowcroft, former CEO of Muscular Dystrophy UK
Lord Walton served as an outstanding Chairman of the charity from 1970 to 1994, when he became a very active Honorary Life President. He was a loyal and constant guiding influence on the development of the charity for more than 50 years.