Walter Williams, the great free-market economist and libertarian thinker who served as the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University and as a member of Capital Research Center’s Advisory Board, has departed this world. As when every great soul departs, the extent of the void left behind can only be truly revealed with time.
We have lost a man who fought valiantly in the nation’s mid-century battle for Civil Rights, a defender of freedom, an accomplished and rigorous scholar, and an uncompromising critic of the welfare state and the destruction it has wreaked on the black community.
A troublemaker from an early age, he was court-martialed while in the Army for pointing out racial disparities. He defended himself and was found innocent. While in college, he was more sympathetic of Malcolm X than Martin Luther King Jr., quoting Malcolm X’s statement: “Our [black American’s] problems will never be solved by the white man.”
The rest of his biography is equally a wonder, especially as he notes in the great documentary of his life Walter Williams: Suffer No Fools, (on Amazon Prime) because he was educated at a time before it “became fashionable for white people to like black people.” Meaning, of course, nothing was handed to him, making his accomplishments that much more impressive.
Williams was raised in the mean streets and housing projects of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and left this world holding a B.A. in economics from California State University, Los Angeles, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from UCLA. In addition, he earned a Doctor of Humane Letters from Virginia Union University and Grove City College, a Doctor of Laws from Washington and Jefferson College, and a Doctor Honoris Causa en Ciencias Sociales from Universidad Francisco Marroquin (Guatemala), where he was a Professor Honorario.
He wrote over 150 publications for scholarly journals including Economic Inquiry, American Economic Review, Georgia Law Review, Journal of Labor Economics, Social Science Quarterly, and Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy and popular publications such as Newsweek, Ideas on Liberty, National Review, Reader’s Digest, Cato Journal, and Policy Review. He also wrote 10 books, including America: A Minority Viewpoint, The State Against Blacks, Do the Right Thing: The People’s Economist Speaks, and Liberty vs. the Tyranny of Socialism.
He made many national television appearances, but his segments on Milton Friedman’s Free To Choose were among his most popular. On word of his death, one CRC analyst remarked that reading Williams’s weekly syndicated newspaper column at a young age contributed to how he now sees the world.
Among the many rewards Williams received, the 2017 Bradley Prize from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation came with one of the best descriptions of his life’s work and personality:
“Walter E. Williams, a tireless defender of personal liberty, economic freedom and limited government, speaks the truth even at personal cost,” said Richard Graber, the president and CEO of the Bradley Foundation. “Williams is a formidable advocate for economic liberty and individual rights.”
We here at CRC count ourselves fortunate to have been connected to such a great man and mind, and we pledge to continue his work in his memory.
Rest in peace, Walter. You’ve earned it.