Williams, Aubrey Willis

   Born to a poor family in Storyville, Alabama, Aubrey Williams left school at the age of nine. He went to Maryville College in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 21 in 1911. In 1917, he went to work for the YMCA in Paris and in 1918 joined the U.S. field artillery. After the war, he went to the University of Cincinnati and graduated in 1920. In 1922, Williams became executive secretary to the Wisconsin Conference of Social Work in Madison, and he remained there until 1932. Joining the Public Welfare Association later that year, he worked to help establish relief organizations throughout the South, particularly in Mississippi and Texas. As a result, in 1933 Williams was appointed as a field representative for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, where he also began his association with Harry Hopkins. In 1935, Williams became Hopkins’s deputy at the Works Progress Administration and executive director of the National Youth Administration (NYA). Williams insisted on equal treatment for African Americans and was responsible for the appointment of Mary McLeod Bethune to the NYA. His outspoken advocacy of civil rights and willingness to address radical organizations gave him a reputation that led the U.S. Senate to deny his confirmation as director of the Rural Electrification Administration in 1945. He then purchased a journal, the Southern Farmer, and in 1948 became president of the Southern Conference Education Fund, a militant civil rights group. His civil rights activities and support for Martin Luther King Jr, in 1955 ultimately led to the withdrawal of advertising revenue from the journal, and it ceased publication in 1959. Williams then moved to Washington, D.C., in 1963.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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