UA Little Rock leader Alfred Williams, who serves as co-chair of the university’s Centennial Campaign, has been recognized for the impact he has made during his career in the Arkansas insurance industry.
Williams is one of six honorees who was inducted into the Arkansas Insurance Hall of Fame Oct. 19 at the University of Central Arkansas. Created in 2015, the Hall of Fame identifies and honors distinguished insurance industry professionals who exemplify innovation, social responsibility, leadership, and professional excellence, who have made broadly encompassing and lasting contributions to advance the role of insurance in society, and who have significantly impacted the lives of Arkansans.
Williams said that he is thrilled to be following in the footsteps of his father, Grainger Williams, who was inducted into the Arkansas Insurance Hall of Fame posthumously in 2017.
“I couldn’t be more surprised or honored to receive this recognition,” Williams said. “My parents gave me four principles to live by – honor your family, your faith, your country, and your community. I try to live by these principles today.”
The Hall of Fame reminds Arkansans of the vital role the insurance industry plays in securing the well-being of individuals and businesses, to inspire the next generation of leadership to reach the high levels of achievement of inductees, and to encourage young people to consider careers in the insurance business.
Williams and his wife, Elaine Eubank, the 2016 winner of the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award, have made an incredible impact on the university through their generosity of their time, support, and financial gifts. The couple was recognized as the 2017 Taste of Little Rock honorees. Williams is a former chair of the UA Little Rock Alumni Board as well as the university’s 2013 recipient of the President’s Award. Williams and Eubank have been married for nearly 40 years and have two children, four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
As co-chair of the UA Little Rock Centennial Campaign, Williams works with fellow co-chair Jerry Damerow to help raise the university’s profile in the greater Little Rock community. The campaign has a goal of raising $250 million by 2027, the university’s 100-year anniversary.
“I can’t tell you how excited I get when I come out to the university and watch all the young folks who are doing their best,” he said. “I’m fascinated by the energy of the students. I want to improve the lives of students, so they don’t have to worry about how they are going to pay for school.”
After graduating from Little Rock University, UA Little Rock’s predecessor, with a bachelor’s degree in history and political science in 1966, Williams served four years with the U.S. Air Force and was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant in 1970.
After leaving the military, Williams considered going to law school, but ultimately decided to follow the family business into insurance. Williams’ father insisted that he make his own way, so Williams received underwriter training in Dallas and advanced training in New York, both with the Continental Insurance Company.
“It was character building,” Williams recalled. “I learned that I liked to be with people, and our insurance agency was going to give me an opportunity to learn more than most people know about a lot of industries. The insurance business was so unique because you could be with an owner of a garage in the morning and a banker later in the day. It gave me a chance to really learn and understand what drove businesses and how they help build the economy of our state and country. It’s not all about insurance. It’s about relationships.”
Williams would continue to grow relationships while building his career as a partner with Ramsey, Krug, Farrell & Lensing, now Cadence Insurance. He was honored with the IIAA Cecil Cleavenger Memorial Young Agency of the Year Award in 1979 as well as the IIAA Allan Kennedy Memorial Agency of the Year Award in 1983.
Williams later retired as senior vice president and risk consultant at BXS Insurance (now Cadence Insurance). Through his career, he’s been heavily involved in the Independent Insurance Agents of Arkansas, serving on the executive, legislative, and governmental affairs committees as well as chairman of the IIAA Young Agents Committee. Additionally, Williams loved developing insurance programs for nonprofits that were making a difference in the community, such as Meals on Wheels of America and the American Taekwondo Association. The latter included a memorable 1990s trip to Korea with Eternal Grandmaster Sang Chul Lee, founder and chairman of the U.S. Taekwondo Center, to meet the president of Korea.
Throughout his career, Williams felt a need to give back to the community that has given him so much. He volunteered and served on the boards of a variety of community organizations, including Rotary Club 99 of Little Rock, Arkansas Opera Company, Little Rock Racial and Cultural Diversity Commission, Little Rock Sisters Cities Commission, Meals on Wheels of America, and Presbyterian Village of Little Rock.
At UA Little Rock, Williams continues to follow in the footsteps of his father, Grainger Williams, who was devoted to supporting Little Rock Junior College, Little Rock University, and UA Little Rock. Williams has served on the UA Little Rock Insurance/Risk Management Member Advisory Committee and the School of Business Advisory Committee, but said his eyes were really opened while awarding scholarships as part of the UA Little Rock Alumni Association.
“I listened to the struggles of students wondering how to pay for school and how to get things like food, computers, and medicine,” Williams said. “I didn’t have to struggle because my parents paid my way through four years of college. I appreciate what my parents did for me, and it’s natural that I want to reach out and help students like my parents helped me.”