Renowned economist Walter Williams didn’t like to be boxed in by descriptions. He famously said, “I just do my own thing” but he has been described as many things — researcher, teacher, public intellectual, economics educator extraordinaire, conservative and libertarian.
Williams died on Dec. 2 at the age of 84.
A champion of free market economics and capitalism, Williams often wrote about the topic of racism and published hundreds of research papers and scholarly articles, The Washington Examiner reported.
He focused on the government’s role in perpetuating racial inequality.
The author of several books, he wrote “The State Against Blacks” and “America: A Minority Viewpoint,” which was developed into a PBS documentary. Both books focused on the ways that governments “systematically constrained the basic rights and freedoms of racial minorities by denying them opportunities to live and work however they saw fit, Reason reported.
Williams said, “The welfare state has done to Black Americans what slavery couldn’t do, what Jim Crow couldn’t do, what the harshest racism couldn’t do, and that is to destroy the Black family.”
He is remembered on Twitter for how he influenced his followers. One Twitter user wrote, “Economist Walter Williams died today. He taught me that as a black man every thing that glitters aint gold! His ‘Amnesty Proclamation’ to white people shown more forgiveness than many black Christians. He inspired me to start”
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Another posted, “Saddened by the news of the passing of Dr. Walter E. Williams. He was a brilliant economist & political philosopher, and had a great sense of humor. It was reading Dr. Williams that started me down the path of Libertarianism.”
Several well-known conservatives reacted to news of the death of Williams including syndicated radio host Mark Levin.
“Wow, what a punch in the gut,” Levin tweeted. “I am told that one of my heroes, Dr. Walter Williams, passed away. Walter had an enormous influence on me, from the time I was 13-years old; he was my first guest on Life, Liberty & Levin.”
“Very sad news,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted. “Walter Williams was legendary. He was brilliant, incisive, witty, and profound. I grew up reading him, and he was a ferocious defender of free markets and a powerful explainer of the virtues of Liberty.”
The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation tweeted, “Walter Williams was an American hero. Born in poverty, raised by a single mother in the projects of North Philadelphia, a college drop-out, he overcame all types of adversity to become a nationally renowned professor, economist and columnist.”
Williams taught at George Mason University, where he worked for 40 years. He was also a popular syndicated columnist whose work appeared in more than 100 newspapers on a weekly basis.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Williams grew up as a neighbor of Bill Cosby in the city’s racially segregated housing projects. He was drafted into the Army during the Cold War, Reason reported.
In his powerful 2010 memoir, “Up From the Projects,” Williams wrote of the racism and police brutality he personally encountered. As a cab driver in Philadelphia, he was ordered out of his cab by a white officer, beaten up and then charged with disorderly conduct.
When he was angered by the racism he encountered in the military, Williams wrote to President John F. Kennedy. “Should Negroes be relieved of their service obligation or continue defending and dying for empty promises of freedom and equality?” He asked the president. “Or should we demand human rights as our Founding Fathers did at the risk of being called extremists?…I contend that we relieve ourselves of oppression in a manner that is in keeping with the great heritage of our nation.”
Williams was well liked at George Mason University. “He could have gotten by with being less focused on teaching, as he had multiple streams of income, but instead he produced in the minds of his students an understanding of economics that will long outlast him and bless many a ‘fair-haired youth,’” Fee reported.
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Fellow economist Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, wrote in Creators, “As an economist, Walter Williams never got the credit he deserved. His book ‘Race and Economics’ is a must-read introduction to the subject. Amazon has it ranked 5th in sales among civil rights books, 9 years after it was published.”
Williams and Sowell were best friends for half a century, Sowell said. “We may not see his like again. And that is our loss,” he added.