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UA Board Approves Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for the Honorable Judge James R. Williams

Akron, Ohio, March 16, 2005 — The University of Akron's Board of Trustees today approved conferring the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters on the Honorable Judge James R. Williams.

A native of Columbus, Miss., Judge Williams moved to Ohio with his late wife, Cathy, following active service with the U.S. Army.

He attended The University of Akron and received his Bachelors of Arts degree in 1960, and his Juris Doctor degree in 1965.

Prior to becoming a judge, he taught in the Akron Public Schools, and served as a senior staff member for the City of Akron's Department of Planning and Urban Development. He also served as a member of the Akron City Council while in private law practice with the firm of Parms, Purnell, Stubbs and Williams.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed him as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. In 1982, he returned to the private practice of law with the firm Guren, Merritt, Feibel, Sogg and Cohen.

He was appointed judge of the Akron Municipal Court in 1983, and was elected to the court in 1985 and again in 1987.

Judge Williams was appointed to the Summit County Court of Common Please in 1989, and was elected in 1990 to serve the unexpired term of Judge John Reece. He was re-elected to full terms on the court in 1992 and 1998.

Judge Williams is a member of the Akron Bar Association, a member of the Ohio State Bar Association and a member of the American Bar Association. He is a past president of the Ohio Common Pleas Judges Association, and a past member of the Ohio Supreme Court's Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline.

Judge Williams has served as a civil rights activist, a leader of many civic organizations, and as a pioneer in providing housing for moderate- and low-income families and senior citizens. During the 1960s, he served as secretary of the Akron NAACP, and vice president of the Ohio NAACP. In the late 1960s, he was the principal founder of Alpha Phi Alpha Homes Inc., a non-profit corporation that has built more than 1,600 units of housing in northeast Ohio. That non-profit corporation named a 148-unit, senior citizens apartment building “The James R. Williams Tower” in his honor.

Judge Williams also is the principal founder of the Alpha Phi Alpha Education Foundation Inc., which supports many worthy projects in the Akron area.

Judge Williams is the national president of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., and the past president of the Central Regional Sire Archon of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. He also is a 33-degree, Scottish-Rite Mason.

He has served as local president for many community organizations, including the Summit County Legal Services Program, the Summit County Community Action Agency, Metro YMCA, Salvation Army, and the Akron Roundtable.

Judge Williams was named as one of the 100 most influential Black Americans by “Ebony” magazine, and he received The University of Akron Outstanding Alumnus Award in June, 1978, and the President's Social Responsibility Award from Kent State University in 1999.

He also was awarded the distinguished Sir Thomas More Award in 2001 by the Catholic Diocese, St. Bernard Church and the Akron Bar Association; The University of Akron School of Law Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2001, The University of Akron Public Administration Urban Light Award in 2004, and, most recently, the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America.

Judge Williams has two adult children and four grandchildren, and he is a member of the Wesley Temple AME Zion Church.

It is expected that Judge Williams will receive the degree at the University's annual Spring Commencement May 15.

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Last modified: March 17 2005 12:41:46