Eugene Williams

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Eugene Williams (b. 1927) was a civil rights and housing activist.

Early Life

Williams was born on November 6, 1927 in Charlottesville as the oldest son of Septemia and Tom Williams. In 1949 he married Lorraine Payne of Ivy and together they had two daughters, Karol Lorraine and Scheryl Eugenia. [1]

Williams attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. [1] He served in the United States Air Force and worked as a district manager for the Richmond Beneficial Insurance Company, located at 400 Commerce Street in the Starr Hill neighborhood.[2]

Efforts towards Integration

He became president of the Charlottesville NAACP in 1955, a year when membership grew from 65 to 1500. Williams and his wife, Lorraine, spearheaded the 1955 lawsuit to integrate Charlottesville public schools.[3] In response, the state government shut down public schools and white families fled to white-only private schools. This lawsuit also ultimately enabled his third-grade daughter Scheryl Williams to attend Johnson Elementary School in 1960.[4] Williams’ daughters integrated two formerly white high schools after schools were forcibly reopened in 1962.

Impact on Charlottesville

In 1980, Williams bought and renovated 62 housing units, with the intention of making housing affordable for all Charlottesville residents.[4] His Dogwood Housing Limited Partnership (1980-2007) was heavily supported by Mayor Huja, who appreciated that Williams was doing what the city could not.[4] Two other real estate partnerships included AEW LLC and Five-Eleven Associates.[1] Until his death, Williams was an advocate for the teaching of Black history.[5] Charlottesville City Council later honored Williams by declaring November 6, 2017 as Eugene Williams Day.[1][6] The Virginia General Assembly also honored Williams with a commendation in 2015.[7]

Frances Brand portrait[edit | edit source]

Williams is one of several people commemorated by the late 20th-century artist Frances Brand as part of her Firsts series.

External Links

Interview with Eugene Williams about civil rights, provided by the UVA Library

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Web. City Council Proclamation for Eugene Williams November 6, 2017, City of Charlottesville, November 6, 2017, retrieved Novemeber 10, 2017.
  2. Web. A long and winding road: City residents recall integration battles, Lisa Provence, The Hook, Better Publications LLC, April 8, 2004, retrieved November 10, 2017.
  3. Web. Lorraine and Eugene Williams: A Civil Rights Power Couple, McKenzie, Bryan, abc13 News, 24 September, 2017, retrieved 16 June, 2022.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Web. Tectonic shift: Eugene Williams loosens his tie, Lisa Provence, The Hook, Better Publications LLC, April 5, 2007, retrieved November 10, 2017.
  5. Web. Activist Arrested Over Removal of a Slave Auction Plaque in Charlottesville, Fortin, Jacey, The Seattle Times, 12 February, 2020, retrieved 16 June, 2022.
  6. Web. It’s Eugene Williams Day, Lisa Provence, C-VILLE Weekly, Portico Publications, 6 November, 2017, retrieved 16 June, 2022.
  7. Web. House Joint Resolution 743, Virginia General Assembly, retrieved November 10, 2017.


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