Over one thousand people are expected to pay their respects to the man former Chicago Mayor Daley coined, “Mr. Chicago”, Mr. Bill Williams. The former Vice President of Chicago Convention and Tourism passed away on February 4th, at the age of 82 years old.
Bill Williams was a founding member and past President of the popular Chicago Rat Pack organization. The Chicago Rat Pack organization is an elite group of powerful African American men of influence whom Mr. Williams led for decades.
“Bill Williams was a Chicago treasure that loved our beloved city more than anyone. He had me installed into the Rat Pack in 1996. He mentored me and covered my back given that I was the youngest Rat Pack. But moreover, he would spend hours just bragging about the City of Chicago. He loved every fiber of our city.” says Chicago area Publicist Sean Howard.
Bill Williams, a native of Chicago, worked for 37 years for the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau (now known as Choose Chicago). Bill grew up in the Morgan Park community and attended John D. Shoop Elementary and Morgan Park High School.
Former Illinois State Senate President Emil Jones Jr added, “Bill Williams was my very best friend. We have known each other since grade school. I could have never achieved so much in government and politics without Bill Williams. I loved Bill as a brother. He has had just as much to do with the upward mobility of African Americans in this city than any other Chicagoan, past or present. He was the king of Morgan Park, but he was truly Mr. Chicago.”
A graduate of Chicago State University with a business degree, Williams has served over forty years in the hospitality industry. He is extremely involved in a number of professional, social, and community organizations: a founding board member of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, as well as a founding board member of the Chicago Chapter of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals.
“Bill Williams was such a huge iconic figure in African American politics and government. He was always the most visible African American government executive. Bill took the concerns of the community directly to the 5th floor of city hall. He was relentless in his quest to ensure that African American political empowerment was felt in every sector of government.” Says Illinois Appellate Court Justice Nathaniel R. Howse.
He is a former Marine and a current member of the Montford Point Marines Association, a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and a member of the Quarter Century Club of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. He is a 33rd Degree Mason and a Shriner. He is also a Board Member for the Shoop School 49ers Alumni Association Inc. and the Ray Kroc Community Center.
The City of Chicago has dedicated a street in his honor. He was a member of Who’s Who Among Black Americans, Who’s Who in Black Chicago and held membership in a number of other organizations, including the Religious Conference Management Association, International Association of Hispanic Meeting Professionals, NAACP, Christian Meetings & Convention Association, National Urban League, Rainbow Push Coalition, and a board member of the Black Metropolis Convention and Tourism Council.
He was Past President of the Rat Pack Chicago, Former Grand Marketing Director of the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks of the World (Great Lakes Elks Lodge #43), former Chairman of the Board for the former Westside Association for Community Action, a former member of the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Baptist Institute and a former Board Member of the Academy of Travel & Tourism for the Chicago Public Schools.
Nationally, Williams was recognized as a leader in the cause of furthering racial equality and opportunity in the convention and tourism industry. He was also recognized as a mentor to many people who have excelled in the hospitality industry. He had a tremendous impact on the economic growth and development of Chicago’s hospitality industry in his promotion of cultural diversity in the meeting industry. Before retirement, Williams was the senior African-American in the U.S. in the convention bureau industry.
Additionally, Williams was active in the betterment of his community. As an entrepreneur he founded K & J Shoe Repair & Shine Parlors in addition to the former E&B Restaurant along with his business partners. These businesses provided employment for more than thirty people. Williams served as a consultant to Choose Chicago. Williams served as a consultant to Choose Chicago.
Williams is survived by Sylester Williams, his wife of 56 years; his sons Kevin Williams of Maryland and Keyth (LaSharrii) Williams of Chicago; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Bill was a lifelong member of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church.
The visitation is at 10:00 AM. Funeral Service to begin at 11:00 A.M.