By James Hill
The Portland Community College community suffered a great loss this past summer. Harold Williams, Sr., a member of Portland Community College’s Board of Directors since 1990 and noted community leader, passed away on Sunday, July 1, 2012. He was 69. In honor of Harold Williams’ distinguished career, his decades-long commitment to PCC, and his tireless efforts to improve the opportunities of those in his community, CFAF wishes to dedicate the 23rd festival to his memory.
“This is a sad time for us all,” said PCC District President Preston Pulliams. “In the community, Harold was known for his eloquence and was sought after to speak at conferences and other occasions. Many people know about Portland Community College because of a presentation that Harold has given, and many have been moved to donate, volunteer, or enroll in the college because of his outreach. We have lost a man widely regarded as a pioneer, advocate and mentor for our communities.”
Williams was appointed to the PCC Board of Directors in 1990 to represent Zone 2, which encompasses North Portland and portions of Columbia County. He was elected in 1991 and re-elected in 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011. He was president of contracting firm CH2A Associates and a member of the Black Leadership Conference as well as The Urban League. A past chair of the Coalition of Black Men, Williams served on the board of the Oregon Community College Association. He held bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Portland State University and lived in Northeast Portland.
Williams’ most significant contribution to Portland Community College was his work in bringing community college services to all parts of the college district. When PCC’s first bond measure passed in 1992, he led the effort to expand the PCC campus in North Portland so that students who lived in that poor area of town could enroll in courses they needed to complete an associate’s degree without having to travel to other PCC locations. When the college passed another bond measure in 2000, he was the driving force behind a major expansion of college services in another under-served part of the community. And Williams was instrumental in pushing for a college policy that would ensure that college construction contracts would meet minority-contracting goals.
In addition, he was known for his promotion of alternative programs for at-risk students. He was successful in expanding classroom space for mentorship programs for students of all ages. An example of this work is Williams’ “Success Academy” where spiritual and cultural leaders come to assist PCC students who have been involved with the juvenile justice system. Williams favorite quote echoed this work: “To give without remembering; to receive without forgetting.”
He has been a force in local, state and national political leadership for many years. Williams was a candidate for the state legislature, walking door to door in his campaign to raise awareness of the issues facing the African American community in Portland. If he had been successful, he would have been only the second African American elected to the Oregon Legislature at the time. At PCC, during Oregon Legislative sessions, Williams routinely testified on bills of significance to community colleges. For all of his hard work at PCC, Williams was selected for the Association of Community College Trustees Pacific Region Trustee Leadership Award in 2010.
Williams had a long record of service to the community and extensive background in civil rights, affirmative action, education and justice. He served as Affirmative Action Director and Equal Opportunity Coordinator to former Oregon Governor Bob Straub. He was Labor Relations Manager for the State of Oregon Executive Department from 1979 to 1984 and served as a consultant to the Oregon Youth Authority from 1995 to 2006. From 1969 to 1973, he served as Director of the Educational Center at Portland State University. He also taught at Linfield College where he mentored students.
He was President of the Portland-area African American Chamber of Commerce, Chair of the African American Committee of Community College Trustees, and a widely known motivational speaker. He served on Portland Mayor Tom Potter’s Charter Review Commission and acted as a consultant to the Portland Development Commission in their efforts to expand minority and women-owned business contracts. He has served on many advisory committees and has volunteered hundreds of hours of time to civic, religious and cultural activities. Williams also served on the Board of Directors for St. Mary’s School for Boys, on the Advisory Board for the Oregon Convention and Visitor’s Services, and chaired the NAACP Youth Committee.