“The E Stands for Excellence”: A Tribute to Walter E. Williams
Walter E. Williams, prolific author, piercing cultural commentator, old-school economist (that’s a good thing), devoted husband, loving father, and longtime friend of Grove City College, has passed from this world.
To the rest of America, Williams was known as a “suffer-no-fools” commentator on perennial, hot-button public policy issues, particularly those pertaining to race and discrimination. To the Grove City College family, he was known as a long-serving member of the board of trustees, an adjunct professor in the Grove City College Department of Economics during the 1990s, a graduation commencement speaker (twice), and a recipient of a GCC honorary doctorate. While a student in George Mason University’s doctoral program in economics, I knew him as “Dr. Williams.” And if I was going to make a favorable impression during my first semester microeconomics course, I’d better internalize the wisdom of “UCLA-style price theory”—of which Williams was the greatest living communicator. More on that in a minute.
He was born in 1936 in a poor part of Philadelphia—a city he was fond of describing as having a “property rights problem.” Those of us who were his students caught his drift. But he hadn’t always thought of things with such piercing analytical clarity. In his youth, Williams described himself as a “radical,” someone “sympathetic to Malcolm X,” and a proponent of minimum wage laws because he believed they “helped poor people and poor black people and protected workers from exploitation.”
Though later repudiating many of his self-proclaimed “radical” views (and arguably adopting others that were just as “radical” along different lines), Williams had identified and experienced true racial injustice while serving as a private in the army. During his military stint, Williams’s passion for justice—particularly racial justice—caused him to write to President John F. Kennedy, decrying the pervasive racial discrimination he observed and experienced in the army’s ranks.
His campaign for justice didn’t stop with letter writing, though, and it eventually got him in big trouble. As relayed in this documentary, one day Williams’s commanding officer, a man with manifestly prejudiced views, barked out: “Williams! Paint that truck!” Young Walter knew he’d been assigned the grunt work—once again—merely because of his officer’s racist proclivities. “Yessir!” he replied. “The whole truck?” he asked for clarification. The commanding officer was hot: “Of course the whole truck, Williams! Now get it done!” Walter E. Williams proceeded to paint every square inch of the truck’s exterior—windows, tires, the whole kit and kaboodle. For his fidelity to the officer’s command, Williams was awarded a court martial proceeding, but was eventually exonerated.
After leaving the army, Williams resumed his education at California State College at Los Angeles, where he graduated with an economics degree in 1965. But it was his matriculation in the economics PhD program at UCLA that made him the Walter Williams we know and love today. At UCLA, he was dazzled with the brilliance of his professors Armen
Article from Mises Wire