from the Houston Chronicle
By LYNWOOD ABRAM
J. Earl Williams, a former professor of economics at the University of Houston main campus and a leader in the War on Poverty during the 1960s, died Wednesday in a Houston nursing home. He was 86.
An authority on vocational education, Williams figured in establishing the Houston Community College system, said James Noland, a friend and former colleague at UH.
In the 1960s, Williams was director of the manpower division of the now-defunct Office of Economic Opportunity, which oversaw the programs of the War on Poverty.
"Earl will be remembered for his independent mind, friendly spirit and uncanny wit," Noland said. "He worked to further democratic opportunities, sponsoring anti-poverty programs to banish injustice, increase equality and enhance dignity through vocational and technical education."
James Earl Williams was born on July 16, 1922, in Fonde, Ky., the son of Hobert Williams, a coal miner, and Beatrice Dephonis Seal Williams.
In 1940, Earl Williams graduated from Knoxville High School. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1941, and served as an enlisted man in the Pacific theater during World War II.
After the war, Williams graduated with a degree in economics and political science from Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., completing the four-year course in 2 1/2 years, said his wife, Marjorie Hybarger Williams.
Williams also earned a master's degree in economics from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and a doctorate in economics from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
He later returned to the University of Tennessee to take part in a study of economic conditions in Appalachia.
Before joining UH in 1966, Williams taught at Austin Peay College at Clarksville, Tenn., and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
At UH, Williams taught on the graduate level and headed the university's Center for Human Resources.
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