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Life Story Funeral Homes®
The exclusive providers of the Life Story Experience

Sidney Bartholomew Williams Jr.

May 5, 2024
Kalamazoo, MI




Kalamazoo, Michigan and the world bid farewell to a true beacon of strength, courage, and integrity, Sidney Bartholomew Williams, Jr. Sid, as he was fondly known, was a remarkable man who rose from the depths of segregation to become a history making college athlete, a distinguished patent attorney, a leader in professional and civic organizations, and a revered community member, gently passed away on Sunday, May 5, 2024, holding hands with his devoted and beloved wife, Carolyn, at the Health Center of Friendship Village. Sid's last week was pain-free and comfortable, with his sons, Marty and Chris, having visited him two days before his death.

Born in the heart of segregated Little Rock, Arkansas on December 31, 1935 to the late Eloise Gay Cole and the late Sidney B. Williams, Sr., Sid faced the harsh realities of discrimination and inequality from an early age. To insulate him from these obstacles, he was surrounded by family members and friends, who encouraged his unwavering spirit and relentless determination to overcome adversity. Arkansas schools were segregated by law, yet Dunbar High School, where Sid attended, was one of the most prominent schools for black students, whose teachers had high expectations for behavior and academic performance - despite the limitations on academic courses available to their students. There, Sid was an honor student, President of the Student Council during his senior year and all state performer in basketball, football, and track. Despite the segregated system, he excelled and bravely stood against injustice in favor of a fair and equal educational system.

Sid was always a big sports fan and read all of the sports pages and magazines. Between his junior and senior year of high school Sid took a train trip from Little Rock to

Berkeley, California to spend the summer with a family friend. During his travels, he struck up a conversation with a fellow passenger named Steve Klisanin, who Sid recognized as having been crowned "Mr. America" in 1955 based on his body building activities. Although Sid had decided early on that he wanted to be an attorney, the idea of combining law, remembering the legal career of his maternal grandfather, with a technical undergraduate degree was solidified after talking with his fellow traveler.

As a testament to his persistence, Sid took initiative and decided to write a letter to Coach Ivy Williamson at the University of Wisconsin outlining his background and expressing his interest in attending the university and his desire to play football. After several exchanges of letters, Sid was invited to apply to the school and was given a combination athletic/academic scholarship. This opportunity led Sid, In 1956, to be named as the starting quarterback for the University of Wisconsin Badgers, becoming the first African American to do so in the Big Ten Conference, the oldest Division I collegiate athletic conference in the United States. Despite the challenges of the era, Sid exhibited unparalleled determination and prowess in both the academic and athletic arenas. He excelled not only on the field but also in the classroom, earning accolades and admiration from peers and mentors alike.

These distinctions led Sid to become featured in several national sports publications, Black History recognitions, and the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008. Yet, Sid's journey was not confined to the realm of athletics. After taking time to try out as a defensive football player with the New York Giants and a year in Canadian football Sid enrolled at DePaul Law school then transferred to George Washington University Law School at night while working as a Patent Examiner in the Department of Commerce. Sid met Carolyn Hickson, a fellow night law school student. Sid and Carolyn were married June 8, 1968 in Washington, D.C.

After graduating with honors, Sid was hired by The Upjohn Company where he spent his first summer studying to take three bar exams, Washington, D.C., Michigan, and Patent Law, to begin his career as a patent attorney in Kalamazoo.

Sid provided a variety of services to the Kalamazoo community including serving one term on the Kalamazoo County Commission, 30 years of service on the Board of Trustees of Borgess Hospital, Board of Trustees of Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, Board of Directors of Comerica Bank, Board of Trustees of the Douglass Community Center among others. Sid was also part of a group of African Americans who worked to make the Kalamazoo City Commission more diverse and successfully helped to elect Gil Bradley as Vice Mayor, Moses Walker as Commissioner and Beverly Moore as the first African American Mayor of the City of Kalamazoo.

Sid was a dedicated father and was very involved in the activities of Marty and Chris as they were growing up and participating in a variety of sports. He helped coach soccer and elementary school basketball, all while supervising homework assignments and attending the multiple and sometimes overlapping contests including ice hockey, football, basketball, and tennis. Sid also participated in the neighborhood tennis contests and was part of a regular group of "mature" men who met to play tennis at West Hills Tennis Club on Wednesday nights.

The Williams family enjoyed many exciting travel opportunities through Sid's work with the American Bar Association and the American Intellectual Property Association as well as family vacations. There were regular trips to Florida, California, Arizona, Hawaii, Washington, D.C. Sid and Carolyn also traveled to Canada, Jamaica, Europe, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and China. There are special memories of football weekends in Madison with dear friends Lou and Cora Marrett, Dee and Herman Smith, the Thomases and Linda Rolls. There were special times spent with Bill and Anita Walker in Hilton Head, S.C. and with friends we met during annual winter trips to Florida: Wilfred and Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas. Most of the world's problems were solved over long meals and many glasses of wine.

Among his many professional accolades, Sid served as organizer and President of the National Patent Law Association, a group of African American intellectual property attorneys who were determined to mentor and encourage an increase in their numbers; he received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Wisconsin in recognition of his career and service to the University including serving on the UW Foundation Board of Directors and the School of Engineering Business Advisory Board; and received the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) President's Award for service to the Patent profession. In that regard a scholarship has been created in his name to promote diversity in the Intellectual Property Bar. Sid also served as President of the National Inventors Hall of Fame where he successfully advocated for the inclusion of more minority and women honorees.

Beyond Sid's remarkable achievements, he will be fondly remembered for his humility, grace, and unwavering dedication to uplifting others. He served as an inspiration to all who knew him, demonstrating that with hard work, resilience, and a steadfast belief in one's abilities, anything is possible. He brought those strengths to his membership in The Jolly Fellows, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, The Charles Pratt Bar Association, and as a Connecting Link of the Kalamazoo (MI) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. Sid leaves the Kalamazoo community forever transformed by his extraordinary contributions. His spirit will continue to guide and inspire us, reminding us of the power of perseverance and the importance of fighting for what is right.

Through his leadership and unwavering commitment to service, Sid touched the lives of countless individuals, leaving an enduring legacy of compassion, integrity, and social responsibility.

Sid is survived by his devoted wife, Carolyn, beloved sons Martin Sidney Williams (Lisa) of Alexandria, Virginia and Christopher Daniel Williams (Eriade) and his cherished grandchildren: Marley Carolyn Adele and Hunter Sidney of Silver Spring, Maryland.

Sid's dear grandchildren brought renewed vigor to his life and encouraged his embrace of technology which allowed the grandparents a view of Marley and Hunter's many activities and recognitions.

Carolyn, Marty, and Chris offer a sincere thank you to all of the many friends who shared kind thoughts and condolences in this season of sorrow. They especially extend their gratitude to the staff of the Health Center at Friendship Village and Centura hospice care.

As we bid farewell to a true trailblazer, "THE Sidney Williams", may he rest in eternal peace, knowing that his legacy will continue to shine brightly, illuminating the path towards a more just and compassionate world.

A celebration of the life of Sidney B. William, Jr. is planned for Saturday May 18, 2024 at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, 804 W. North Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan, where family and friends will gather to honor his remarkable legacy. The visitation will begin at 11:00 a.m., followed by the service at 12:00 noon. There will not be a repast nor an interment. A second celebration of Sid's life will be planned for the summer of 2024.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for the consideration of donations to be made in Sid's memory to: The Sidney B. Williams, Jr. Scholarship Fund administered by the Foundation for Advancement of Diversity in IP Law, The Sidney B. and Carolyn H. Williams Chancellor's Scholarship Fund at the University of Wisconsin College of Engineering or a local non-profit of your choice.