Professor Lee Williams, II, whose lectures featured a familiar booming voice that has echoed through the corridors of Roberts Hall for more than 35 years, has decided to retire. Professor Williams came to UAHuntsville in 1972. Professor Frances Roberts, the founder of the History Department, interviewed Lee Williams, who was on his way to Mississippi State University to complete work on his Ph.D. He accepted the position, and later took a leave of absence to complete his Ph.D. He has been here ever since.
Professor Williams leaves behind a fine record of achievement. His book on twentieth century race riots has recently been reissued by the University of Mississippi Press. He is a frequent book reviewer and contributor to encyclopedias dealing with African American issues. As director of the UAHuntsville Office of Multicultural Affairs, he has assisted countless students, and has brought African American speakers and performers to campus. He, along with his History Department colleague Jack Ellis and three other UAHuntsville faculty members, organized a semester-long collaboration with Alabama A&M University in 2001 to commemorate the civil rights movement. It was a stunning success, bringing to campus central figures in the civil rights movement in Alabama and the nation. Among the featured speakers were Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch and several civil rights pioneers, including U.S. Congressman John Lewis, Diane Nash, Fred Gray, J.L. Chestnut, and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.
Students remember Professor Williams fondly, and he in turn enjoyed working with them. “I enjoy the students and participating in the process of helping young people find out what they’re all about,” he remarked on the occasion of his 35th anniversary of teaching at UAHuntsville. “It brings such satisfaction to hear kind remarks from former students who enjoyed my class. It makes me feel good.”
With the retirements of Dr. Williams and Dr. Boucher, the last two members of the team that played UAH’s only intercollegiate football games have now left the university. For a brief time in the 1970s, UAH had a club football team that included faculty and students. Although the documentary record is full of holes, it is said that they played other colleges. Here is the team photograph from 1974-1975. Dr. Williams is the first in the back row left; second from the left is Philip Boucher; Clyde Riley of Chemistry is on the front row left.
Lee Williams will be greatly missed by his colleagues in the History Department. With his retirement, and with Drs. Johanna Shields and Philip Boucher teaching their last classes in the recently concluded academic year, the department loses its connection to the 1970s. We will miss hearing about those years, and we will miss Dr. Williams’s shrewd analyses of Alabama politics. The faculty wishes him a wonderful retirement!
--Andy Dunar, Chair