Jim Williams, a former director of Moveable Feast and a co-founder and co-publisher of Baltimore OUTloud, died of heart and lung disease Oct. 4 at Seasons Hospice in Franklin Square Hospital. He was 84 and lived in the Village of Cross Keys.
He was active in the Presbytery of Baltimore and was a past director of the Senior Network of the Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, he moved with his parents to St. Bernard Parish, outside New Orleans. He attended what is now Chalmette High School, where he was elected its first male cheerleader.
He earned a degree at what is now Lyon College on a Presbyterian Church scholarship. He was elected student body president and preached weekends at churches throughout Arkansas.
According to a biography supplied by his friends, he dropped plans to be a minister and taught eighth-grade English at North Clayton High School in College Park, Georgia, for three years. He lived in Atlanta and was active in the state affiliate of the National Education Association and worked in civil rights issues. He sought to merge black and white teachers organizations.
He participated in the 54-mile 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
He later met Dr. King and discussed a Chicago teachers union that was in conflict during a collective bargaining session.
Mr. Williams recalled the incident when his National Education Association bosses in Washington, D.C., called and asked whether he knew about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I told them that you can’t be from Atlanta and not know who Dr. King was," Mr. Williams said.
Mr. Williams later worked with the National Education Association at its national office in Washington until his first retirement in the 1980s. He later joined other nonprofits, including Food & Friends.
He moved to Baltimore and was executive director of Moveable Feast and was later executive director of AIDS Interfaith Residential Services.
He was a past member of Govans Presbyterian Church and ran its Senior Network, a senior center on the church grounds. He arranged the activities for the members of the center.
OUTloud publisher Jim Becker said, “Jim devoted the latter half of his life to serving the gay community as executive director of Moveable Feast and AIDS Interfaith Residential Services. That commitment made him a natural fit as a founder of Baltimore OUTloud."
Mr. Becker also said: “Jim had great insight into the needs of the community that, combined with a strong business sense, made him invaluable to the newspaper. ... Jim had boundless energy and a love of life — perhaps the result of growing up in New Orleans. He had a great sense of humor, loved a good party and could light up a room.
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“He insisted that we pay off a debt we had, and he had a good sense about working with people,” Mr. Becker said. “He was practical about how to keep a small business going. Also, people liked working with him. He never got too flustered.”
In his free time Mr. Williams enjoyed musicals at the Hippodrome and was a devoted Ravens and Orioles fan. A self-described news junkie, he watched CNN and read three newspapers daily.
“He was always well-versed in political news and current events. Politics, the Ravens and the Orioles were his favorite conversation topics," said a friend, Deb Milcarek.
"He was one of those people who left the world in a better place. He believed in justice and equality for all people. He spent his life dedicated to this goal in the NEA and later, after he retired. He also had a wicked sense of humor that could be off-color. He had a kind wit and sarcasm about him. But people loved him for this.”
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 7 at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, Park and Lafayette avenues, where he was a member.