Walter Bridgforth Jr. is a Detroit-based entrepreneur and philanthropist who has achieved great success in business and community development. An African-American pioneer in the city’s residential development, Bridgforth is best known for his success in persuading the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) to open a restaurant in Detroit. This restaurant has since become one of the top three IHOPs in the country.
Walter and his wife, legendary singer Anita Baker, founded the Bridgforth Foundation, which has committed to paying for the first two years of college or vocational school for 25 students from Barry Elementary School in Detroit. Bridgforth is currently on a mission to convince national, family-style restaurant chains to invest in Detroit. To demonstrate the viability of the urban market, he points to the success of his own IHOP restaurant, which brought in over $2 million in its first year of operation.
In addition to his business success, Bridgforth is also a devoted family man. He and Baker were married for two decades, from 1988 to 2008, and they have two sons, Walter Baker Bridgforth and Edward Carlton Bridgforth. Bridgforth is actively present in his children’s lives and enjoys spending time with them.
His ex-wife, Anita Baker
Anita Baker was born on January 26, 1958, in Toledo, Ohio. Raised by a foster family in Detroit, Michigan after her mother abandoned her at the age of two, Baker began singing R&B at Detroit nightclubs when she was only sixteen. At one performance, she was discovered by bandleader David Washington and joined the funk band, Chapter 8, in 1975. After securing a deal with Ariola Records in 1979 and releasing their first album, Chapter 8, Baker was dropped by Arista Records who felt she did not have “star potential.” She returned to Detroit and worked as a waitress and a receptionist until, in 1982, Otis Smith, a former associate of Ariola, convinced her to start a solo career.
She released her debut solo album, The Songstress, in 1983 and produced four singles, including “No More Tears” and “Angel”. In 1985, she signed with Elektra Records and released her second album, Rapture, which produced the hit single, “Sweet Love”. In 1987, she collaborated with The Winans on their song, “Ain’t No Need to Worry”, which won her a third Grammy. Her third album, Giving You the Best That I Got, was released in 1988 and topped the Billboard 200, selling 5 million copies worldwide. The title track became her most successful charted single and resulted in three more Grammy Awards.
Her fourth album, Compositions, in 1990, marked a change in her sound, incorporating more jazz elements than before. The album launched the singles “Talk to Me”, “Soul Inspiration” and “Fairy Tales”, and eventually sold over a million copies. In 1994, Baker released Rhythm of Love featuring the single “Body and Soul” and her eighth Grammy-winning song, “I Apologize”. After taking a break to settle down with her husband and have two children, she returned to music in 2004 with the album My Everything. Most recently, she performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field prior to the NFC Championship Game in January 2022.