An Evening with a Delaware Hero

A Conversation with Leonard Williams, Esq.

image of Williams event announcementUDaily article | event card (404KB PDF) PDF icon

Leonard Williams, Esq., a native of Wilmington, enrolled in the University of Delaware two years after Parker v. University of Delaware, the decision that desegregated UD in 1950. He was a football star as well as an outstanding academic student. After graduating, Williams attended Georgetown University Law School. He returned to Delaware in the late 1950s and practiced law with Louis L. Redding until Redding’s retirement. Williams worked with Redding on many important civil rights cases including, among others, Evans v. Buchanan, the New Castle school desegregation litigation. He also served as a municipal judge in Wilmington.

“Leonard Williams was a pioneer who prevailed against tremendous obstacles,” Leland Ware, the Louis L. Redding Professor of Law & Public Policy at UD and one of the organizers of the event, said. “When he was a student at UD, Deer Park and other segregated establishments on Main Street refused to serve African Americans. Williams’ outstanding accomplishments are an important part of Delaware’s history and should serve as an inspiration for minority students and other members of the UD community.” (quote excerpted from UDaily article)

Program Sponsors

  • Redding Chair for the Study of Law and Public Policy
  • Black American Studies
  • Center for Black Culture
  • Institute for Public Administration
  • Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)
  • HOLA (The Latino Community of the University of Delaware)
  • La Raza (The Latino Student Union at the University of Delaware)

Pre-Presentation Reception
At 4:30 p.m. guests enjoyed light refreshments and welcome Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Williams to campus.

Program Purpose
The purpose of this program was to engage UD stakeholders in a conversation about the access of African Americans to educational opportunities at the University of Delaware. Williams’s success at UD during the era of official segregation served as an inspiration for minority students and other members of the UD community.

Program Focus
The program focused on the experiences of African Americans during the early years of desegregation, by allowing a prominent member of the Wilmington community and 1954 graduate of the University to describe the early admissions process and features of campus life.

“Conversation” Format
At 5:30 p.m. in an informal setting assembled as a “living room” on a stage, a two-hour discussion convened and was presented in two segments:

  • The moderator/host introduced Leonard Williams and posed a series of questions that allowed Williams to tell his “UD story” with the moderator connecting it, as appropriate, to the Parker v. University of Delaware case and the history of school desegregation efforts in Delaware and the United States.
  • Audience members posed questions that connected Williams’s story to UD’s current admissions issues and a range of campus climate issues.

1956 yearbook photos courtesy of the University of Delaware Archives