A celebration of the life of Fred Williams (’38, ‘JD ’40) planned for Friday, March 20

Photo of Fred Williams ('38, '40)

Fred Williams ('38, '40)

Longtime Wake Forest Law supporter and life member of the law school’s Board of Visitors Fred Williams Sr. (BS ’38, JD ’40) died on March 16, 2015, in Greensboro. A celebration of his life is planned for 11 a.m. on Friday, March 20, at First Baptist Church, Greensboro. The family will visit with friends in the church atrium following service. The family will also visit with friends 4-6 p.m. on Friday at Well Spring in Greensboro.


Interim Dean Suzanne Reynolds (’77) said: “Fred Williams Sr. meant as much to Wake Forest Law as we did to him. We were so excited about celebrating his milestone birthday next month and were in the middle of planning a big bash for him when we got the news, which makes this even harder. I’ll never forget Fred’s words in a recent video he made for the law school, when he said: ‘Wake Forest made my life.’ The feeling is mutual. He made ours.”Mr. Williams was featured in the law school’s alumni magazine, The Jurist, in a 2009 article.

Following is the obituary, written by his family, that ran in the Greensboro News and Observer:
Walter Frederick Williams (Fred), a friend to all and proud native of Chattooga County, Ga., died on March 16 just shy of his 100th birthday. Born on April 27, 1915, to Walter Russell Williams and Bessie Williams Williams in Trion, Georgia, Fred lived the majority of his adult life in Greensboro, N.C.
Graduating from Summerville High School in Summerville, Ga., in 1932, Fred worked for a year, and then hitchhiked to Wake Forest, N.C., with $75 in his pocket where he enrolled at Wake Forest College signing a note to cover the tuition and fees. In 1935, while still a student at the College, Fred opened a soda shop in downtown Wake Forest. By the time he graduated from Wake Forest Law in 1940, having received his undergraduate degree three years earlier, the College Soda Shop was paying all his bills and then some.Fred married Vida Ellen Thompson (who predeceased him in 1996) his lifelong love in July of 1937. Together they raised three children moving to Greensboro in 1947 following Fred’s work with the Army Corps of Engineers during WW II. In Greensboro he negotiated with the Corps of Engineers’ Real Estate Division to purchase the improvements on the Overseas Replacement Depot (ORD) located on Bessemer Avenue. An entrepreneur since childhood, Fred dismantled the Army buildings board by board and resold the much needed timber and building fixtures to gain a financial future in real estate development. Working with Bessemer Improvement Company, he developed numerous industrial properties in ORD. He was instrumental in the development of the Summit Shopping Center, one of the first shopping centers in the Southeastern U.S. In 1960 he purchased a large tract of land at I-85 and South Elm Street to develop Interstate Industrial Park. Many industrial facilities and warehouse for national and local tenants were built. At the same time he joined Koury Corporation where he handled design, financing, construction and leasing for Four Seasons Mall completed in 1974. Fred and his loyal administrative assistant, Brenda Wilson, have managed his real estate properties over the past 25 years.A devoted Christian, Fred followed the example of his parents serving First Baptist Church as a member for over 60 years and as Sunday School teacher, usher, deacon, Chair of the Finance Committee, Chair of the Building and Grounds Committee, and member and chair of several search committees.

Fred also served his community as a member of the North Carolina Bar Association, American Bar Association, president of the Sternberger Elementary School PTA, Summit Rotary Club, Chair of the American Cancer Society Annual Fund Drive, Board of Directors of the United Way, President of the Wake Forest University General Alumni Association, life member of the Wake Forest Law School Board of Visitors, Trustee and Trustee Emeritus of the Meredith College Board of Trustees, and Building Committee for the construction and maintenance of the Well Spring Retirement Community.

Fred is survived by his three children and their spouses; Nancy Williams Cheek and Neal King Cheek of Chapel Hill, N.C.; Walter Frederick Williams, Jr.(’67, JD ’69)  and Susan Monroe Williams of Franklin, Tenn.; and David Russell Williams and Mary Jane Shreve Williams of Cary, N.C.; six grandchildren, Laurie Williams Makarwich and husband Greg, David Russell Williams, Jr. and his wife Tamara, Brian Frederick Williams and his wife Samantha, Benjamin Eldridge Williams, Clayton Williams Cheek and his wife Jody, and Anna King Cheek. He is also survived by eight great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

The family would like to thank the Well Spring Community, both the professional staff and the residents who were among Fred’s many friends for the many kindnesses and care given to Fred during his time there. Appreciation and thanksgiving go to his good friend, Bettie Williams for her love and companionship and to Velda Johnson of the Home Care Division for her steadfast care during the last year of his life.

A celebration of Fred’s life will be held at First Baptist Church, Greensboro, on Friday, March 20, at 11 a.m. in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church and the family will visit with friends in the church Atrium following service. The family will also visit with friends 4-6 p.m. Friday at Well Spring, where Mr. Williams lived for the past two decades.

In lieu of flowers gifts honoring Fred’s life may be made to the WFW Scholarship at Wake Forest University School of Law, Meredith College or to a charity of one’s choice.

Those of you who knew Fred well know that he was much too humble to write of his accomplishments. This obituary was written by his family who are proud of what he meant to the community and grateful for his being in our lives.