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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Civic Leader and Oldest Living Alum Dies

Prominent Little Rock civic leader E. Grainger Williams, the oldest living graduate of Little Rock Junior College, has died.

E. Grainger WilliamsWilliams, 102, a lifetime member of the UALR Alumni Association and 1957 distinguished alumnus, died April 2.

A former Board of Visitors and Alumni Association board member, Williams and his wife, Francis, have an endowed scholarship for UALR College of Business students named for them.

During Williams’ tenure on the Little Rock University’s Board of Trustees, the University of Arkansas approached LRU about a possible merger. By 1968, both boards had approved the merger and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock was created following approval by The General Assembly.

As former Little Rock Chamber of Commerce president, Williams was also instrumental in responding proactively during the Little Rock School Crisis, advocating that the public schools re-open following an order from Gov. Orval Faubus that they close.

“In these roles and in many other ways, he was a steadfast supporter and advocate for UALR,” said Chancellor Dr. Joel E. Anderson.

“He was also an inimitable personality, always intelligent in what he had to say, and funny,” Anderson added. “It was always a pleasure to be around him. Beyond his service to UALR, Grainger Williams was also a courageous pillar of the community. His kind come along too infrequently.”

In addition to serving on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce and university, Williams was active in the Rotary Club, Red Cross, and National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Williams was born in Little Rock on July 23, 1911, and was the son of John Henry Williams and Ann Burden Grainger. After Little Rock Junior College, he went on to  graduate from Davidson College in North Carolina in 1933.

From 1933 through 1937, Williams served as secretary to Congressman David D. Terry. In 1938, he formed the Williams and Rosen partnership, an insurance business.

His son, Alfred, and daughter-in-law, Elaine, are also UALR alums with endowed scholarships at the school. Alfred Williams followed in his father’s footsteps, serving as president of the UALR Alumni Association and UALR Foundation Fund Board.

Alfred Williams once said his spirit of giving was inspired by his father, who advised him to give back to the community and help those who cannot always help themselves.

The service honoring Williams will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock.