At the turn of the twentieth century the downtown area of Richmond, Virginia of Jackson Ward was known as “Black Wall Street” prior to such a designation for Tulsa, Oklahoma. One reason for the Ward’s moniker was the establishment of 300 Black owned businesses, including seven (7) Black owned insurance companies. Among the insurance companies was the Richmond Beneficial Insurance Company, directed by Brother James B. “J.B.” Williams.
Brother Williams was initiated into Omega by way of the Nu Psi Chapter at Virginia State College for Negroes in 1945. Upon graduating with a business degree, he was hired by the Richmond Beneficial Insurance Company, serving in several positions before being named Chief Executive Officer in 1954. According to those who worked with him, Brother Williams’ leadership style was distinguished from his peers by his unique and highly effective combination of business acumen and friendly demeanor. He was reputed to treat employees with such dignity and respect in the building that his presence and style led to high organizational morale, often resulting in greater productivity.
Although he was busy on the job, he was never too busy for Omega. Brother Williams served Omega as a member of the Phi Phi Chapter of Richmond, Virginia until his death. In 1947, following the success of the North Carolina and Virginia State Conferences, the Fraternity reconceptualized and reorganized its organizational framework into the District structure we know today. The first three Third District Representatives, Thomas W. Shields, Walter H. Riddick, and James D. Gill, all hailed from the Lambda Omega chapter. In 1954 (the same year he became CEO of the Richmond Beneficial Life Insurance Company), Brother Williams became the fourth Third District Representative under the new District framework and first to be elected from the Phi Phi chapter. Brother Williams served from 1954-1956. The attached Third District Representative report to the 1955 Third District meeting provides a glimpse into Brother Williams’ good spirit.
Brother Williams’ niece (whom he raised) is Kay Coles James who served as Director of the Office of Personnel under President George W. Bush, and currently is the President of the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.
Thank you once again for Walking the Ward with us.
Make it a great week Brothers. Be noble!
3rd District History and Archives Committee
The Monday Pearl is provided by the Third District History and Archives Committee and is a weekly sharing of fraternity content, commentary, and research of historical value we hope Brothers will enjoy and from which Brothers will draw inspiration. Previous “Pearls” can be found at https://3rddistrictques.org/about-us/overview/monday-pearl/. The Committee encourages your feedback. Should you have reactions, comments, information, anecdotes, documents, and the like, related to any of the content we share, we’d very much like to hear from you. Please send all communication to email@example.com.
“And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit…and let your best be for your friend.” Kahlil Gibran