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Baton Rouge school desegregation leader Robert Williams has died

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BATON ROUGE - Robert Williams, a leader in the desegregation of Baton Rouge public schools, has died.

"He was a warrior," NAACP local president Mike McClanahan told WBRZ Tuesday.  "He was well versed in the law," McClanahan remembered as he compared Williams to "one of the baddest lawyers," likening him to Thurgood Marshall and the "gentlemen from Howard  [University] ” who garnered national attention for their efforts decades ago.

Williams was among the group who fought to desegregate schools in East Baton Rouge after he graduated law school and following a stint in the Marines during Vietnam in the early 1970s.

The EBR case was one of the longest-running fights in the nation, colleague Gail Horne Ray remembered. 

Williams fought to make schools more accessible, Ray said, as parents tried to keep neighborhood schools.

Williams would argue before a judge who believed Brown v. Board of Education was unconstitutional and Ray remembered how Williams would always have an appeal ready because he assumed the judge would rule against his case. 

"He never got the recognition he should have gotten," Ray said.  "But, it was his desire to do the right thing for the students," she said. 

"He was in it for the justice." 

He died Monday.  He was 77-years-old and had been living in a nursing home.

Williams attended McKinley High, studied at Grambling and then Southern Law. 

"He was the top and bottom of his class," Ray remembered Williams having joked as she chuckled, because he was the sole graduate from Southern Law in 1967. 


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