Gentleman, journalist, scholar James D. Williams Jr: His death at the age of 70 leaves a void in Baltimore and the nation.

October 30, 1997

AS A JOURNALIST and spokesman for the National Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, James D. Williams Jr. had no peer. For more than four decades, his was the authoritative voice to whom many of us in newspapers turned for answers and guidance.

Mr. Williams, who died Friday at the age of 70, was not only a journalist of the highest quality but a soft-spoken gentleman and scholar of the civil rights movement and African American life in Baltimore and beyond. And, yes, he was an Orioles fan.

A native of Baltimore, Mr. Williams began his professional career as a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune. He also served over the years as city editor of the Afro-American here in Baltimore, beginning in 1953. Later, he became the newspaper's managing editor and then was its editor from 1994 until last year.

From 1972 to 1985, he was director of communications at the National Urban League and from 1986 to 1993, he held a similar post at the NAACP. He also served briefly as public affairs director for Community Action Programs at the federal Office of Economic Opporunity.

At the time of his death, Mr. Williams -- a graceful writer -- was at work on a book about his extraordinary life and times.

In all of those roles, Mr. Williams set a standard of excellence others sought to emulate. Vernon Jordan, former president of the National Urban League, summed up Mr. Williams' career, saying: "Jimmy was a soldier in the army of equality early on. Journalism and public relations were his chief weapons."

Mr. Williams will be remembered for his wit, his integrity, his insight, his caring. He will be greatly missed.

Pub Date: 10/30/97

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