David Williams

(Source: Vanderbilt University)

Retired Vanderbilt University athletics director David Williams died on Friday at age 71.

"David Williams stood tall on this campus, in this city and in college athletics nationally as an incomparable leader, role model and dear friend to me and so many others. We are devastated by this loss," said Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos in a statement. "His impact on our community is immeasurable and will be felt for generations to come. We offer our deepest condolences to Gail, his children and the entire Williams family on this immense loss."

Funeral services for Williams will take place on Friday, Feb. 15 at Temple Church, 3810 Kings Ln, Nashville, and are open to the public. Visitation will be from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. followed by the funeral service at 1:15 p.m.

The family has requested donations be made to the Perry E. Wallace Jr. Basketball Scholarship at Vanderbilt University. Contact the National Commodore Club at 615-322-4114 for information or donate online.

Williams announced in September that he would be stepping down from his role as athletics director and vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs. His last day as athletics director was Jan. 31. He was going to continue in his role as a tenured professor at the Vanderbilt University Law School upon retirement from athletics.

Williams served in the role for 15 years. He was the university's first African-American vice chancellor.

Williams joined the law faculty in 2000, when he began working in the Vanderbilt administration as a vice chancellor, general counsel and secretary of the university. His areas of expertise included sports law, law and education and tax law. In 2002, student affairs was added to his responsibilities, then athletics the following year. In 2012, he was officially given the title of vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director.

Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, Williams worked in student affairs administration at Ohio State University, where he was also a law professor. He was a member of the state bars of Tennessee, Michigan, the District of Columbia and the American Bar Association, where he served on the Bar Admissions Committee.

In December, Malcolm Turner was announced as the new vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director. He started on Feb. 1.

"The Vanderbilt family is saddened to learn of the passing of David Williams. David authored a remarkable legacy at Vanderbilt, one defined by blazing trails and championing the student-athlete," said Turner in a statement. "In my short time at Vanderbilt, I was fortunate to have cultivated a friendship with David, who most proudly coveted his role as a husband and father. All of Commodore Nation mourns the loss of David, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Gail, his four children, his six grandchildren, and his great-grandson."

During Williams' tenure as athletics director, Vanderbilt won four national championships, including titles for the bowling, baseball and women’s tennis teams.

"The entire SEC family is profoundly saddened to learn of the passing of David Williams. Personally, I am saddened to have lost a friend and a person who guided me in many ways," said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey in a statement. "David had a remarkable and lasting impact on his university and the SEC, leading Vanderbilt to Conference and NCAA championships with integrity and honor. His love for Vanderbilt's student-athletes and support of student-athletes nationally, his steady leadership and his legacy as a trailblazer have moved the Vanderbilt community in ways that will be felt for generations. Our deepest condolences go out to Gail, his children and the entire Williams family on this day."

H. Beecher Hicks III, president and CEO of the National Museum for African American Music

“Our hearts go out to Gail and the entire Williams family. David was my friend, a titan in the community, and an example of excellence and leadership. My family and the NMAAM staff are deeply saddened by his passing. He will be greatly missed.

David, Gail and Vanderbilt University have been active supporters for many years. David was chairman of our campaign steering committee and was an integral part of the progress that we have made over the last couple of years. He was more than a friend and a colleague. He was a mentor, and I will do my part to live up to the ideals he stood for.”

Williams was born and raised in Detroit, MI, where he worked as a middle school teacher and coach in Detroit public schools from 1970 to 1980. He earned his doctorate of jurisprudence from the University of Detroit Law School in 1982 and a master’s (taxation) from New York University Law School in 1984.

He is survived by his wife, Gail; his four children, Erika, David III, Samantha and Nicholas; his six grandchildren, David IV, Jazmin, Triffany, Dayon, Daiaha and Zoe; and his great grandson, Desmond.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Multimedia Producer

Kara is an Emmy Award-winning digital producer. She is a Cincinnati native and an alumna of the University of South Carolina. She previously worked at WRDW-TV in Augusta, Ga., before moving to Nashville five years ago to work at WSMV-TV.

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