Eddie N. Williams, spent the majority his life working to encourage and promote civic and political participation in communities of color, principally in the Black community. Born in Memphis, Tennessee on August 18, 1932, he was the only child of Georgia Lee and Edie Williams. Eddie was an excellent student who especially enjoyed English and Speech and in high school he was member of the debate team.
After earning his journalism degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1956, Eddie applied to get a job at an Illinois newspaper where he had worked part time while in school, but was rejected when the paper's owner refused to hire an African American journalist. Eddie returned home and took a job as managing editor of the Memphis Star-Times, a new black newspaper. He served a tour as a Lieutenant in the Army, and later worked as a reporter in Atlanta with the Daily World, before receiving a Congressional fellowship with the American Political Science Association and working for Senator Hubert H. Humphrey in 1960.
Eddie used his Washington contacts to acquire a job as a Foreign Service Reserve Officer with the State Department, where he worked in the Offices of Protocol and Near Eastern Affairs, and as Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity. In 1968 Eddie left the State Department and took a position at the University of Chicago as director of the Center for Policy Study; five months later he became vice president for public affairs at the university. He was also an editorial columnist for The Chicago Sun Times Newspaper.
In 1972, Eddie left the University of Chicago to become President of the Joint Center for Political Studies, then a fledgling, small, organization in downtown Washington, D.C. that was part of Howard University. Under his leadership, the Joint Center became a separate 501(C3) organization, increased its annual budget to over 7 million dollars annually, changed the name to include economics as an area of concentration, and earned a reputation as a premier public policy think tank.
For his work in influencing the legislative framework on matters of policy concerning Blacks, Eddie received numerous awards and honorary degrees: The National Journal named Eddie one of the 150 outsiders who have had the greatest impact on the federal government; he was a recipient of a prized MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant; he was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences; The Adam Clayton Powell award was presented to Eddie by the Congressional Black Caucus, In 1991 he received a Washingtonian of the Year Award ; and in 2016 he was award the Louis E. Martin “Great American Award” by the Joint Center. Eddie also served as a director on several corporate boards, including Grumman Corporation, CareFirst Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Riggs National Corporation, and Harrah’s Entertainment. In 2004, after retiring from the Joint Center, he established a management consulting firm, Eddie Williams & Associates, LLC that advised several major businesses and organizations on how to be more appealing to minority communities. An active member of several social, professional, fraternal and civic organizations, Eddie served as Grand Sire Archon of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Vice Chairman of the Black Leadership Forum and was the founding Chairman of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.
Eddie is survived by his loving wife of 35 years, Jearline “Jerri”, his son Larry (Rangena Hotaki), his two precious grandchildren, Samira and Rafiq, his stepson, Terence Reddick and host of other relatives and friends. He is predeceased by his parents; his daughter, Traci Lynne Williams; his two first cousins, Alice and Richard Langford; and his previous wife Sallie E. Williams, the mother of his children.
Donations may be made to:
Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
633 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20004,