Mr. James L. Williams (1926-2004) Flight Officer 1945 Class of 45-F
James L. ‘Jim’ Williams was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1926, and was a resident of Hampton, Virginia, since 1951. He was the son of the late Florence and Jerome Williams of Philadelphia, PA. He received his elementary education at Saint Peter Claver Catholic School and in 1944, he graduated from South East Catholic High School in Philadelphia, PA. A teacher at his High School saw his interest in flight and encouraged him. He was 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1944.
Upon enlisting, Mr. Williams was selected to enter the Pilot Training Program for the U.S. Army Air Corps at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Before Mr. Williams could overcome gravity, however, he had to persevere the wave of prejudice practices. He succeeded and as a Tuskegee Airman, he graduated and received his commission as a Flight Officer. On 8 September 1945, in the Class of 45-F, Lieutenant Williams received his Silver Wings. WW II ended 8 May 1945.
LT Williams received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army Air Corps and later entered the University of Michigan. In 1951, he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Aeronautical Engineering and headed to Virginia where he landed a job at Langley. Mr. Williams’ wife recalled that many of his co-workers did not want him in their group. A Department Chair finally accepted him.
While at Langley, Mr. Williams first worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (or NACA) in the Stability Wind Tunnel performing work in the analysis of aircraft stability and control and making sure aircraft flew as they were designed to fly. His job required the former Pilot to describe in mathematical terms what Pilots experience in flight. In 1970, Mr. Williams received a Master’s Degree in Mathematics from The College of William and Mary and completed all post-graduate class work towards an Applied Science Degree at George Washington University.
Mr. Williams was later employed at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Langley Research Center as an Aerospace Research Engineer. After 39-years of service, he completed his career at NASA Langley working as part of a Team that looked for ways to minimize the size and vibration of large space structures such as telescopes, antennas and space stations. While partially retired, Mr. Williams served as a Professor at Hampton University in the
School of Engineering. When he was not instructing, he worked for many years as a High School and College Football Official and served the Hampton community through his involvement on its School Board, the Virginia Air and Space Museum Board of Directors, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Recycling Commission. Mr. Williams was also a member of the Zeta Omicron Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, an active parishioner at St. Joseph Catholic Church serving as a Lector and a member of the Knights of Columbus where he served on several other committees.
At age 77, LT Williams, the Tuskegee Airman, the NACA/NASA Aerospace Engineer, Hampton University Professor, High School and Collegiate Football Official, and Community Leader, passed away on January 20, 2004, at Caritas Carney Hospital in Dorchester, MA. Mr. Williams is survived by his loving and devoted wife of 50 years, Mrs. Julia G. Williams. They had three children, Dr. Martin J. Williams of Boston, MA., Father George W. Williams of Canton, MI., and Dr. Grace M. Williams of Fairfax, VA.; daughter-in-law, Dr. Jennifer E. Smith-Williams; and three grandchildren, James N. Williams, Rebecca G. Williams and Martin Fletcher Williams, all of Boston, MA. He was also survived by a sister, Mrs. Mary W. Tymes of Philadelphia, PA; and a host of nieces, nephews and friends.
To learn more about Mr. James L. Williams, his accomplishments and those of other Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen as well, please visit the Websites at the following locations: www.TAI-TidewaterChapter.com and www.TuskegeeAirmen.org.