Dr. Lawrence Henry Williams

Tuesday, August 2, 2016 6:40 pm

Dr. Lawrence Henry Williams, born Sept. 14, 1943, in Louisville, Ky., departed life, July 31, 2016. A wake is Thursday, Aug. 4, from 6 to 9 p.m., and the funeral service is at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 5, both at Green Street Baptist Church in Louisville. Flowers and cards may be sent to: Green Street Baptist Church, attention Kim Harris, 519 East Gray St., Louisville, KY 40202.

Williams was a proud “son” of Green Street Baptist Church where he trained under spiritual mentor, Rev. J.V. Bottoms, Sr. He held the bachelor’s degree from Kentucky State University, the master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the master’s and doctoral degrees in American studies from the University of Iowa.

Williams taught at Luther College in Decorah for 25 years. He taught Africana studies, history and Paideia courses until his retirement in 2010. Williams was a nationally recognized authority on the black church and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, in which he participated and worked with many of the best-known leaders of the movement. He was the author of numerous monographs, articles and book chapters on the role of the black church in the Civil Rights struggle. Luther’s African and African-American Studies program established the Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture in 1987 to provide an ongoing scholarly conversation about the struggle for human rights in the United States. Williams planned and solicited funding for more than 20 of these lectures throughout his Luther career. His dedication to the lecture series reflected a commitment to expanding civil rights that went beyond academic study. Williams’s personal experiences with the Civil Rights Movement and its protests allowed him to help students relive the moment, and his acquaintance with civil rights leaders brought extraordinary people to campus to share their lives and stories with a new generation.

In 2010, he retired to his hometown of Louisville, Ky., where he actively taught at Simmons College of Kentucky and served as historian-in-residence.

Dr. Williams is survived by his wife, Queen Williams (Jackson); sons, Lawrence, Jr., Martin D.; daughter, Shari; daughter-in-law, Danita; aunt, Willie Cunningham; uncle, James Williams; grandchildren; nieces, nephews, cousins; in-laws; colleagues; students; and friends worldwide.

He was preceded in death by (mother) Louise F. Williams, and (grandson) Basil Anthony Robinson, Jr.

The family requests memorials in Lawrence’s name be made to the Williams Endowment Fund for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture or the Cultural and Racial Diversity Scholarship at Luther College.

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