Once again, the University of South Carolina School of Law mourns the loss of an incredibly accomplished alumna. On November 2, the Honorable Karen J. Williams, a legal pioneer and one of the most highly regarded graduates of USC Law, passed away.
An Orangeburg native, Judge Williams was at the top of her class when she graduated from law school in 1980. She joined her husband Charles H. Williams (class of 1975) and father-in-law Senator Marshall B. Williams (class of 1936) in the law firm of Williams & Williams. In 1992, President George H. W. Bush selected her to serve as a judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Upon her confirmation, she became the first woman to sit on this court. She broke barriers again in 2007 when she became the first female Chief Judge of the Court.
At one point, Judge Williams had also been considered to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
She retired in 2009 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
She is survived by her husband, four children, and nine grandchildren.
USC Law has established a fund to help keep Judge Williams’ memory alive and inspiring future lawyers studying at USC Law. The fund will establish the Karen J. Williams Courtroom, one of four courtrooms in the law school’s new home, which is slated to open before the school’s 150th anniversary in 2017.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Williams family. Judge Williams was not only a brilliant legal mind, but was also incredibly well-respected by her peers,” said Rob Wilcox, dean of the law school. “It is a tragic loss for her family, for the law school, and for the legal community.”