Walter was seen as a noble name in the Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Walter Scott era, but it then spent decades in baby name limbo. Now quite a few independent-minded parents are looking at it as a renewable, slightly quirky, classic, stronger and more distinctive than James or John. However, the recent popularity of Breaking Bad has brought us Walter White -- which could have a serious effect on the name's popularity (in either direction).
A favorite Norman name, Walter was extremely popular in medieval England (when it was pronounced "Water"), and in this country from the 1870s through the 1940s. Plus there are all those great Walters and Walts to consider, from Whitman to Disney to Cronkite to Mondale to Payton to Matthau. And then there's the ultimate fantasizer Walter Mitty, not to mention (Walter) Bruce Willis. Recently, actor Rainn Wilson named his son Walter.