Albertina Walker died early this morning at the age of 81.
Pam Morris, a close friend and WVON radio host, says Walker died Friday morning of respiratory failure in at RML Specialty Hospital in Chicago. Morris says Walker was "a living legend" who was responsible for launching more than a dozen careers of gospel artists.
Walker recorded more than 60 albums and won numerous awards. As a young woman, she formed her own gospel group, the Caravans, and was a protege gospel star Mahalia Jackson.
U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush says Walker was a voice for the civil rights movement. In his words, her music was "a healing balm to those who struggled for justice."
Walker was lifelong Chicago resident and member of the West Point Baptist Church. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Funeral services for Walker are pending.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.