By: Michael Mastrianna

One year ago–on December 2, 2020–economist Dr. Walter Williams, a dear friend of Young America’s Foundation and one of the country’s most articulate and staunch defenders of individual liberty, passed away.

A prolific scholar and public intellectual, Williams served as the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University and wrote a widely-read weekly column and numerous popular books, including The State Against Blacks and Race & Economics.

Williams played an integral role in YAF’s success over five decades. He was heavily involved in both Young Americans for Freedom and Young America’s Foundation. From speaking at the 1975 YAF Convention in Chicago to addressing college students at the Foundation’s annual National Conservative Student Conference in Washington, D.C. in 2019, to crisscrossing the country to deliver YAF-sponsored lectures to campus audiences—Williams was a tireless advocate for greater economic freedom for all.

A lifelong learner and educator, Williams particularly enjoyed participating in YAF student programs because, as he said, “I like being around young people. It helps keep me young, and I like the challenge of arguing and debating my ideas.”

As then-YAF President Ron Robinson said when learning about Williams’ passing, “We are grateful for the life and legacy of Dr. Walter Williams, who generously gave his time and wisdom to students to ensure freedom. Dr. Williams built on Adam Smith’s scholarship and made it fresh for YAF audiences these past 50 years. His passing is a loss to everyone who cherishes individual freedom.”

The positive influence that Williams had on thousands of young people nationwide will be felt for generations to come.

Check out more videos of Walter Williams on YAF’s YouTube channel, YAFTV, here.


Michael is associate director of YAF’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Free Enterprise.