"What was most impressive about him was that he was such a humble man even in all of his fame," said Dr. Nina Harris, of UMD's School of Public Policy.
Walters died Friday night, said University of Maryland spokesman Lee Tune. Walters had been suffering from cancer. He had retired from full-time work in July 2009.
Walters spent 25 years at Howard before becoming director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland. He has written numerous books and more than 100 articles, and appeated on networks including CNN, NBC, CBS, C-SPAN and PBS.
He earned a B.A. in History and Government from Fisk University in 1963, and an M.A. in African Studies and a Ph.D. in International Studies from American University, in 1966 and 1971, respectively. In 1984, Walters served as a deputy campaign manager for Jesse Jackson's presidential bid.
He spent most of his professional life in Washington, receiving many awards, including a distinguished faculty award from Howard University in 1982, and the Ida B. Wells-W.E.B. DuBois Award for Distinguished Scholarship from the National Council for Black Studies in 2000.
"He had a great impact and made a real difference in the world and to all those who knew him," said UMD Acting University President Nariman Farvardin. "His death is a tremendous loss. Our sincerest condolences go out to his wife, Patricia, and all his family."