David Williams honored and remembered by family and colleagues

Posted at 7:20 PM, Feb 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-15 20:20:06-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Friends, family, colleagues, and people impacted by the life of David Williams, the former athletic director at Vanderbilt University, gathered to honor his life at The Temple Church in North Nashville on Friday.

Williams passed away one week prior to his funeral on the day of a planned retirement party for the man who impacted the lives of so many.

Williams was the first African-American to lead an athletics program in the Southeastern Conference, and in his role, he focused both on athletics, academics, and improving the lives of people encountered.

During Williams' 15 seasons at Vanderbilt, the Commodores won four national championships and more than 19 league titles and tournaments.

From an academic standpoint, for the past 13 years, Vanderbilt student-athletes have earned over a cumulative 3.0 GPA every year.

Williams was instrumental in leading efforts for recognition of and reconciliation with Vanderbilt pioneers, including Perry Wallace and Godfrey Dillard.

At the funeral, friends, family, and colleagues stressed how much of an impact Williams had both on individuals and Vanderbilt University as a whole, with that impact spreading throughout the country.

Williams was also known as a brilliant legal scholar who had multiple degrees, including a master's degree from Northern Michigan University, a doctorate of jurisprudence from the University of Detroit Law School, and a master's from New York University Law School.

Williams is survived by his wife, Gail, his four children, his six grandchildren, and a great grandson.

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, by calling (615) 322-4114, or by visiting

Williams will be laid to rest in Detroit, Michigan.