Kale Alonzo Williams, Jr. died January 7 at home in Boulder, Colorado. He was a long-time resident of Chicago prior to his move to Boulder in 2013.
Williams was born in Independence, Kansas on August 7, 1925 and grew up in the small town of Cedar Vale, Kansas, the oldest of seven children born to Hazel Parks and Kale Williams, Sr. At age 17 Williams and all of his 120 pounds joined the U.S. Navy and served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Following the war, he came to the University of Chicago, which was the beginning of more than 67 years of deep involvement in his neighborhood of Hyde Park and the Chicago metropolitan area.
During his years in Hyde Park, Williams served as president of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and president of the Hyde Park Cooperative Society. Long before it was popular, he could be found running along the lakefront, and in later years, strolling around the Promontory Point.
Williams’ experiences in the war led him to become a pacifist and a tenacious advocate for human rights and nonviolent social change. He became a member of the 57th Street Meeting of Friends in the early 1950s. He worked for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) from 1951-1972 in the Chicago, Philadelphia and Pasadena offices, ultimately directing the Chicago office for many years. During his years with the AFSC, he challenged racial segregation and helped address injustice in Chicago’s low-income communities, the need for assistance to Native Americans in the Southwest, and opposition to the Vietnam War. From 1968-1970, he and his family lived in Nigeria where Williams directed a relief program during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war.
A pivotal time in his life was when he worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Al Raby in Chicago to secure fair-housing opportunities for all citizens regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or income. After the 1966 open housing marches, Williams joined the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, where he served as executive director for more than 20 years. In 1994, he was invited to Loyola University Chicago as a visiting professor of applied ethics and later was appointed the senior scholar in residence at Loyola’s Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL). He served in that position for more than 10 years and inspired numerous students and faculty. He also coordinated the Chicago Freedom Movement 40-year anniversary events, which examined the movement’s legacy and unfulfilled dream of a fully just and inclusive city. He retired at age 80.
As immersed as he was in urban problems, Williams was often at his happiest on his land in Porter County, Ind., tending his big garden, walking the woods, and cooking meals for friends and family. The Williams’ donated part of the property to the Moraine Nature Preserve to ensure that its beautiful wooded ravines would remain protected.
Williams is survived by his wife of 66 years, Helen Leonard Williams of Boulder, sons Kale Leonard Williams of Oakland, Calif. and Mark Williams of South Haven, Michigan, and daughter and son-in-law Sara Williams-Mann and Stuart Mann of Boulder, nephew Martin Goldenberg (Michele) of Weston, Florida, five grandchildren: Kale Williams, Allison Lukert, and Siena, Kaia and Remy Mann. He never forgot his Kansas roots and remained close to his five surviving siblings and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held in Chicago in the spring. Donations in his memory can be made to the Kale Williams Scholarship Fund at Loyola University Chicago (http://www.luc.edu/curl/) or the Indiana Division of Nature Preserves, 402 W. Washington St. W267, Indianapolis IN 46204 Attn: Moraine Nature Preserve.