Walter Milton Myers was born on August 12, 1937 in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Myers's mother passed away suddenly when he was just two years old. As a result, he was sent to live with Florence Dean, the first wife of Myers's biological father. Florence Dean and her husband, Herbert Dean, raised Myers in Harlem, New York. Due to his close relationship with his foster family, Myers changed his name to Walter Dean Myers. Throughout his life, Myers reflected fondly on his early years in Harlem. He often cited his church and neighborhood communities as major influences on his later work.
During his childhood, Myers suffered from a speech impediment. Afraid of being teased by his peers, he found solace in books and, later, in writing. Myers dropped out of high school and joined the military in 1954. After serving, Walter returned to writing. He began contributing to local tabloids and magazines. After reading James Baldwin, Myers was inspired to write about his experiences as a black man in the mid-twentieth century. After Myers won the Council on Interracial Books for Children contest in 1969, he published Where Does the Day Go?. This book captured the attention of mass audiences and jump-started the author's celebrated career.
Myers's 1999 novel Monster was a finalist for the National Book Award and appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list. Throughout the course of his career, Myers wrote over 85 books. He has been the recipient of many literary awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award. Myers used his success as an author to advocate for marginalized voices. He frequented prisons, schools, and juvenile detention centers to speak to students, teachers, and librarians, working to bridge the worlds of activism and literature. Myers passed away on July 1, 2014 at the age of 76. His son, Christopher Myers, provided illustrations for many of his father's novels.