Submitted by Courtney Schrieve of North Thurston Public Schools
When most folks retire, they may make plans to travel, volunteer or play a daily game of golf. But Bill Williams, a retired attorney and advocate for public education, was not like most folks.
With a shock of striking white hair and radio announcer voice, Bill had a commanding presence. He could often be seen (and heard) in Dancing Goats coffee shop in Lacey where he loved to meet with friends and the love of his life, wife Max.
Bill died on Saturday, June 13 after a year-long illness, with Max and their three daughters by his side. While the family mourns his loss, so does the entire education community and colleagues from his career at the Attorney General’s office.
After graduating from law school at the University of Michigan, Bill spent his career as a senior assistant attorney general for the State of Washington representing a number of state agencies including the Departments of Transportation, Health, Corrections and Social and Health Services. While there, he successfully argued two cases before the United State Supreme Court, Washington v. Harper in 1989 and Washington v. Glucksberg in 1997. He received the Washington State Bar Association’s “Angelo Petruss Award for Lawyers in Public Service” and that Chris Gregoire awarded him the “Steward of Justice Award.”
“Bill will be remembered as exemplifying the qualities of a great public attorney. He was a deep thinker and a brilliant advocate,” said Narda Pierce, former solicitor general and friend and colleague of Bill’s in the Attorney General’s Office. “He always advanced legal arguments that were scholarly but also focused on what was fair and in the interest of the public. Bill was respected for his honesty and integrity, and was a founding member of the Attorney General’s Office Ethics Committee. He was a valued advisor to Attorneys General, a trusted leader in the office, and a source of wit and wisdom for his colleagues.”
Throughout his life, Bill was an advocate of education, equity and justice. Following his lifetime career as an attorney, he seemed to speed up more than slow down. Starting as a member of the Lydia Hawk Elementary PTA while raising his three daughters, he was elected to the North Thurston School District School Board, where he served for 25 years. In addition to his local roles, he served as President of the Washington State School Directors’ Association and was a member of the Board of the National Board of School Directors. After retirement, Bill turned his sights and energy towards his passion for education and became the Executive Director of the Washington State PTA.
“He was my best boss ever,” said Kim Howard, who worked with Bill at the state PTA. “Many, many people will miss Bill Williams. He was a kind, thoughtful man and a friend and mentor to many. He was the kind of organizational leader who worked hard to unite folks to achieve common purpose.”
In his spare time, Bill and Max were devoted sports fans always rooting for their alma maters, Michigan and Duke. They also both shared a passion for the arts. But more than Broadway they invested their time and tickets in the Timberline High School Arts and Music program. All three of their daughters graduated from schools in the North Thurston Public School district.
“Bill and Maxine were two of our biggest fans in the Arts,” said Brenda Amburgy, retired drama teacher and director at Timberline High School. She recalls Bill treating everyone to Pizza Uno when she and her students went to perform the musical Civil War in Chicago at a convention. “He was a force when it came time to support the Arts in our district. He championed our new theatre at Timberline. I will miss him in the audience, but pretty sure he’ll still be watching.”
“Bill’s board tenure, legal background and attention to details was deeply appreciated by everyone in our district, including staff and his colleagues on the board,” said Raj Manhas, former superintendent of North Thurston Public Schools, whom Bill helped hire in 2009. “When we updated all the board policies in 2010/11, Bill’s historical knowledge was instrumental in bringing them to current times.”
Most recently, Bill served on the board of directors for Capital Region ESD 113, which provides support services to 44 public school districts and others in a five county area. Because of his legal background, colleagues often looked to Bill for his balanced and objective approach to problem solving.
“Bill pushed us to think about issues of equity, specifically how our board and leadership reflect the communities we serve,” said Dana Anderson, Superintendent of Capital Region ESD 113. “He gently nudged, but strongly and consistently advocated for the concerns of traditionally underrepresented children, students and families. Bill modeled ethical leadership and a values-based approach to governance. Our board meetings were richer and more deliberative as a result of his participation. Bill’s wit and wisdom will be greatly missed by the board and staff.”
Bill will be particularly missed in the North Thurston school community. Throughout his nine years on the North Thurston Education Foundation Board, he was integral in expanding the mission and outreach of the foundation, serving as Treasurer, on the Executive Committee, with the Investment Committee, and as co-chair of the Scholarship Committee.
“His invaluable skills, wise counsel, kind heart, and genuine concern for others — especially kids in need — will truly be missed, not only by the North Thurston Education Foundation, but also by everyone touched by our important work,” said Dorn Barr, who served on the North Thurston Education Foundation Board with Bill. “Bill compassionately and selflessly embodied our motto, “It’s for the kids.”
A memorial for Bill will be announced at a later date due to COVID-19 and closures. Donations can be made in his memory to the North Thurston Education Foundation for a scholarship fund being established in his name.