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Frank Williams - Civil Rights Stories

Frank Williams grew up in Flint, Michigan and captained the defense for his high school football team. But when it was discovered he was dating a white girl, he was expelled. The two eventually married and moved to Chicago where Frank went on to a long and very successful career as a Realtor on the south side of Chicago during a time of redlining, white flight, block busting and heightened racial tensions. Many white home owners employed him to sell their houses, often to African-Americans, especially in Beverly and neighboring communities. His business was frequently the target of harassment and violence, including one incident where a bomb was set off outside his home. In 1979 Frank was ordered by the District Court of the Northern District of Illinois to produce five years of files, a request that amounted to a more sophisticated form of harassment. Despite this, Williams achieved considerable success, holding many leadership positions in the community and receiving numerous awards over a career that has spanned five decades.

Interview Links

Feature Excerpt

Harassing Phone Calls

Abstract

Interview Session 01 (Audio)

Growing up in Flint, MI, high school football and expulsion from school

Interview Session 02 (Audio)

Early career as a Realtor in changing Chicago neighborhoods

Interview Session 03 (Audio)

Career as Realtor in racially changing neighborhoods on south-side Chicago


Photos

Caption

Young Frank Williams with his mother, Ada L. Frye (Jones) in 1943 shortly after they moved to Flint, Michigan.

Where:

Flint, Michigan

When:

1943

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator.

Caption

A young Frank Williams in his home in Flint, Michigan, circa 1945-46.

Where:

Flint, Michigan

When:

Circa 1945-46

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank Williams’ photo in the 1955 Flint (Michigan) Northern High School yearbook.

Where:

Flint, Michigan

When:

1955

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain

Caption

Frank Williams was confronted by angry neighbors in September 1971 at his Beverly (southside Chicago) realtor office. He had recently opened up the office, and local residents were accusing him of blockbusting.

Where:

Chicago

When:

September 1971

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator

Caption

Frank works the phone in his realtor’s office in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. This was circa 1972-1973, during a time when the community was protesting and harassing the young realtor.

Where:

Chicago

When:

Circa 1972-1973

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Joanne Williams talks on the phone in their Beverly realtor office, circa 1972-73. She received hundreds of harassing phone calls during this time, when Frank was being accused of blockbusting, and tensions ran very high.

Where:

Chicago

When:

Circa 1972-73

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank’s realtor associates gathered for this photo in his realtor’s office in 1973. From left to right are Jane Collins, Mr. Walker, Frank’s wife Joanne, and in the back, Leon Pass, Tom Cox and Melvin Laws.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1973

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank Williams was among those testifying before a U.S. Senate committee hearing on fair housing chaired by Senator Adlai Stevenson, III in 1974. The hearing was held in Chicago and also included Roy Fair, Ernie Knecht and unknown.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1974

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator

Caption

Joanne and Frank at their home in Beverly in the mid-1970s. This was during the period when they experienced frequent harassment, including an incident when a Molotov cocktail was put in the mailbox.

Where:

Beverly, Illinois

When:

Mid-1970s

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Joanne and Frank, circa 1975-1976 in their home in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago.

Where:

Beverly, Illinois

When:

Circa 1975-1976

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Joanne and Frank Williams celebrate in their Beverly home with their eldest son Michael following his graduation from high school in 1978.

Where:

Unknown

When:

1978

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Sam Pierce Secretary of HUD is with Frank in the early 1980s at an NAACP function in Chicago.

Where:

Chicago

When:

Early 1980s

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank and James Lucian presented Lena Horne with a bouquet of flowers during the annual Freedom Fund dinner, where she sang and was the guest speaker in 1983. Frank was President of the Southside Chicago chapter of the NAACP at the time.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1983

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank Williams met with Harold Washington in 1983 in the mayor’s office when Washington was first elected as Chicago’s mayor. Williams was President of the Southside chapter of the NAACP at the time.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1983

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

The annual Freedom Fund dinner in 1983-84 was held at the Chicago Hilton. Roland Burris is on the left with Harold Washington and Frank on the right.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1983-84

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank whispers in the ear of Congressman Charlie Hayes during a workshop in Chicago when Frank served as President of the NAACP in 1984.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1984

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Williams was President of the Southside Chicago chapter of the NAACP in the mid-1980s. The group, including James Lucien on the far right, are celebrating paying off the mortgage on the NAACP’s building in the background, Penn Central.

Where:

Chicago

When:

mid-1980s

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator

Caption

Frank Williams met with former Mayor Hatcher of Gary, Indiana met in the 1980s at a meeting in Chicago when Williams served as President of the Southside chapter of the NAACP.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1980s

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Howard Builta, Pres. of the Chicago Board of Realtors, met with Harold Washington and Frank in the mayor’s office on the day before Washington passed away on November 25, 1987.

Where:

Chicago

When:

November 25, 1987

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Mayor Eugene Sawyer and Williams were attending an event for the Board of Realtors in 1988 in Chicago.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1988

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank met with Atlanta, Georgia’s former Mayor Maynard Jackson in 1989. They met at a national level conference while Frank served as the president of the Chicago Assn of Realtors.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1989

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank and Joanne with their daughter Rene when she graduated in the late 1980s from Daley College in Chicago.

Where:

Chicago

When:

Late 1980s

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Joanne and Frank with their son Craig, in the middle, and his son Jason in 1990 at the family home.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1990

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank with Richard M. Daley in 1990 at one of Frank’s functions in Chicago.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1990

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

In 1990 Williams met with the Mayor of Flint, Michigan, Woodrow Stanley when Williams was visiting family in his home town.

Where:

Flint, Michigan

When:

1990s

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Henry Cisneros (HUD secretary) met with Frank during his Chicago Board of Realtors presidency circa 1991. They met at a national convention.

Where:

Chicago

When:

Circa 1991

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank celebrated with Mayor Richard M. Daley and Marion Valle at the Chicago Hilton in 1991 when Valle was being installed as the President of the Chicago Board of Realtors.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1991

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator

Caption

Frank Williams and Marion Valle with Congressman Jack Kemp, a Republican from New York who favored economic zones in America’s inner cities. Kemp was HUD Secretary at the time, circa 1991.

Where:

Chicago

When:

Circa 1991.

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Diana Ditka, coach Mike Ditka’s wife, unexpectantly jumped into Frank Williams’ arms when he visited Soldier Field in the early 1990s to say hello.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1990s

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank presented a bouquet of flowers to Carol Mosely Braun shortly after she was elected Senator in November 1992.

Where:

Chicago

When:

November 1992

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank spoke in 1993 at a Fair Housing Conference function sponsored by National Association of Realtors. The event was also attended by Senator Carol Mosely Braun.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1993

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank with Senator Dick Durbin circa 1993 at a meeting of the Illinois Board of Realtors in Washington, D.C.

Where:

Washington, D.C.

When:

Circa 1993

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank with Richard M. Daley during Christmas at the Mayor’s annual holiday party at the Art Institute? Circa 1990

Where:

Chicago

When:

Circa 1990

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain

Caption

Frank Williams in 1999. The photo was taken while he served as president of Chicago Board of Realtors.

Where:

Chicago

When:

1999

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator.

Caption

Luis Gutierrez, Congressman from the 4th District of Illinois, and Frank Williams while Williams was attending a meeting in Washington D.C. in the early 2000s.

Where:

Washington, D.C.

When:

Early 2000s

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Frank Williams received the Gale Cincotta Community Visionary Award from the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago at their banquet in March, in 2017. He was honored for his lifelong effort to insure fair housing practices in the Chicagoland area.

Where:

Chicago

When:

March, in 2017

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator

Caption

Frank received the Gale Cincotta Community Visionary Award from the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago in 2017. Christen Howe, on the left, presented Frank the award.

Where:

Chicago

When:

2017

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator



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