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Leon Williams Papers, 1961-2006Add to your cart.View associated digital content. | Special Collections & University Archives

Title: Leon Williams Papers, 1961-2006Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
ID: MS-0398
Extent: 56.87 Linear Feet
expand icon Historical Note

Leon Williams was born in Oklahoma, but moved to Bakersfield, California during the Great Depression.  He received a BA in psychology from San Diego State College in 1950.  He also studied law and public policy.  After graduating, he worked as a social worker in the San Diego Sheriff's Department.  Later, Williams worked for the Urban League, a movement dedicated to "empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream," and became the director for the Neighborhood Youth Corps Program, which helped underprivileged youth in San Diego by offering job placement services and educational opportunities.  Williams was also active on the Citizens Interracial Committee (CIC), which worked to combat racism and alleviate racial tension specific to San Diego neighborhoods.

In 1969, Williams became the first African American elected to the San Diego City Council as a representative for District IV.  He later became county supervisor in 1982. As County Supervisor, Williams was president of the California State Association of Counties in 1993, and he was on the board of directors for the National Association of Counties.  Both these associations serve to represent county governments before the state and federal legislatures.

During Williams' years in the City Council, he helped initiate the Southeast Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) and the Regional Growth and Planning Review Task Force to promote land use programs in order to revitalize and sustain low to moderate income communities.  Land use advocates, city planners, and environmentalists comprised the Growth Task Force.  He similarly co-chaired the City-County Reinvestment Task Force to encourage financial institutions to reinvest in these dilapidated neighborhoods.  Williams also established the Martin Luther King Park, and endorsed the downtown redevelopment project.

In addition to (re)development projects, Williams created the Human Relations Commission and the Hate Crimes Registry to tackle racial and religious tensions.  He fought for state constitutional reform as a member of the California Constitutional Revision Committee, and helped change the county charter to increase government accountability.  Williams' Prevention Policy sought to create long-term solutions for issues such as crime, drugs, welfare, and health concerns.  He was a proponent of needle exchange programs to help fight against AIDS, and was a supporter of the anti-smoking ordinance.  During this time, Williams also taught public policy classes part-time at San Diego State University.

Although Williams worked as a councilman, he was also active with the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB).  In 1976, he began his long tenure with the MTDB, and in 1994 was appointed chairman of the Transit System's board of directors.  Williams had always supported the use of public transportation as a means to connect and revitalize San Diego's older neighborhoods, rather than expand into undeveloped areas.  He believed the creation of the San Diego Trolley was the best way to achieve this goal.  He was also the chairman of the Services Authority for Freeway Emergencies (SAFE), and was responsible for freeway call boxes.

He retired from City Council in 1995, and the MTDB in 2005.  Leon Williams is married to Margaret Williams.  They have a daughter named Alisa.

Author: Amanda Lanthorne
expand icon Arrangement

I. Campaign Files, 1969-1994

II. Conference Files, 1974-2000

III. Professional Files, 1966-2003

         1. Urban League, 1964-1975

         2. California Constitutional Revision Committee, 1974-1995

                 a. General Files, 1975-1995

                 b. Meeting Files, 1993-1995

         3. District IV, 1966-2003

                 a. Chief-of-Staff Files, 1970-2000

                         i. General Files, 1970-2000

                         ii. Subject Files, 1978-1994

                 b. General files, 1966-2003

         4. Metropolitan Transportation Development Corporation, 1986-2006

                 a. General Files, 1986-2006

                 b. Reports, 1987-1998

IV. Personal Files, 1961-2006

V. News Clippings, 1969-2002

expand icon Administrative Information
Acquired: 2004. March 2006, 2016-017
Restrictions: This collection is open for research.
Rights: The copyright interests in these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creators of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of historical archival and manuscript collections is such that copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine.  Requests for permission to publish must be submitted to the Head of Special Collections, San Diego State University, Library and Information Access. When granted, permission is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder(s), which must also be obtained in order to publish. Materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials.
Acquisition Note: Leon Williams
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Preferred Citation: Identification of item, folder title, box number, Leon Williams Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Library and Information Access, San Diego State University.
Collection Material Type: Personal Papers
Other Note: This collection was processed as part of the San Diego African American Archives Project, made possible by a grant from the President's Leadership Fund.
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