Economist, GMU professor Walter E. Williams dies at 84

Economist Walter E. Williams, a professor at George Mason University in Virginia, has died. He was 84.

Williams died Wednesday, a day after teaching his last class at the Fairfax university, where he was the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics since 1980. From 1995 to 2001, he was also the department chair.

He was the author of over 150 publications that have appeared in several academic journals; the writer of more than 10 books — among them “The State Against Blacks” that was later made into a PBS documentary called “Good Intentions” — and he has appeared in several radio and television shows, including “Nightline,” “Face the Nation” and “Wall Street Week.”

He wrote a nationally-syndicated column that appeared in some 140 newspapers and websites. His last column, “Black Education Tragedy Is New,” was published Tuesday.

“He was for 40 years one of GMU’s greatest assets — and champions,” GMU economics department past chair Donald J. Boudreaux and current chairman Daniel Houser said in a tribute.

Williams was born in Philadelphia and grew up poor, working at one time as a cabdriver, Boudreaux wrote in a Wall Street Journal commentary.

“Walter knew injustice — and understood the way to fight it wasn’t by emoting but by probing and learning.”

He graduated college from California State University in Los Angeles and earned masters and doctorate degrees in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Williams’ principal scholarly research was devoted to studying the effects on minority groups of markets as well as of government policies, the economics department said.

Williams was a proponent of the free market system, writing in a December 2019 column, “Free markets are morally superior to other economic systems.”

Ann Ardis, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said that many people disagreed with Williams and at times, he received fair criticism.

“Yet his work and his writings prompted many of us to think critically, even if the end result was an agreement to disagree,” Ardis said in a statement, adding that is the foundation of higher education.

“No individual has done as much as has Walter Williams over the past four decades to make known the name ‘George Mason University,'” Boudreaux and Houser said.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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