David Williams, former Vanderbilt vice chancellor and athletic director, dies

Posted at 1:36 PM, Feb 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-11 14:18:03-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — David Williams, the former vice chancellor and athletics director for Vanderbilt University, has died.

Williams had been the vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and the athletics director for 15 years. He was 71 years old. His sudden death came one week after he retired, and hours before a planned retirement party on the Vanderbilt campus. He collapsed at a Nashville restaurant Friday morning and later passed away.

"We are all stunned," said Jacky Akbari, one of Williams' close friends. "His legacy and leadership is so strong. It will remain beyond his time in Nashville."

Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos released this statement regarding Williams:

“David Williams stood tall on this campus, in this city and in college athletics nationally as an incomparable leader, role model and dear friend to me and so many others. We are devastated by this loss. His impact on our community is immeasurable and will be felt for generations to come. We offer our deepest condolences to Gail, his children and the entire Williams family on this immense loss.”

Back in September, he announced he was stepping down as Athletics Director to return to teaching at Vanderbilt Law School.

Williams was the first African American Athletics Director hired by a SEC school. During his tenure, he oversaw the first four NCAA National Championships in Vanderbilt history. He was known by many Vanderbilt fans as the "Gold Father."

Williams was also an active member of the community. He was an advocate for students in Metro Nashville Public Schools, he chaired the board of the Nashville Public Education Foundation, and also chaired the Sports Fund at the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

"He was a gentle giant, with a soft touch, and a kind heart," said Ellen Lehman, President of Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. "Every year he managed to make things happen that probably no one else could."

"He was so dedicated to our community and to young people in our community," said Byron Trauger, a close friend of Williams. "He loved everybody. He made opportunities for people. He used his skills and accomplishments to help other people."

Williams is survived by his wife, four children, six grandchildren, and great grandson. They released the following statement on Monday:

"The family of David Williams II would like to thank everyone for the words of support and love during this tough time.

We are heartbroken by the passing of our beloved husband, father and friend. Yet our hearts have been warmed by the many expressions of love.
Services will take place on Friday, February 15 at Temple Church on 3810 Kings Lane in Nashville, TN and are open to the public with visitation occuring between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm, followed by the funeral service at 1:15 pm.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the Perry E. Wallace Jr. Basketball Scholarship at Vanderbilt University.
Donations can be made by sending a check to the Perry E. Wallace Jr. Basketball Scholarship, Vanderbilt University Gift and Donor Services, PMB 407727, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, Nashville, TN 37240­-7727; on-line at; or by calling the National Commodore Club office at (615) 322-4114.