Williams, Armstrong 1959–
Armstrong Williams 1959–
Executive, columnist, talk show host, author
Armstrong Williams is known for his conservative views and leads the trend of African-American conservatism. The Washington Post has called him one of “the most recognized conservative voices in America.” He has made his views clear on his talk-radio and television shows, and in his syndicated column and magazine articles, including his opinions on the behavior of former president Bill Clinton. Listeners, while they might not always agree with his strong opinions, know where he stands on issues such as abortion, affirmative action, and welfare. He will cite his upbringing on a farm by staunch Republican parents when he rails against affirmative action and social programs that cause dependency for African Americans, believing that “… people should rise and fall on their own merit,” he told Insight on the News. While Williams finds that African Americans are receptive to his conservative message, there is a split when it comes to moral issues and affirmative action.
But Williams is not bothered by the black community’s differences of opinion. “They don’t necessarily agree with me, but they understand the honesty and the sincerity [of my message],” he told Insight on the News. Williams gets his message across loud and clear, and often. His radio talk show, The Right Side, and his television show of the same name have made him the first conservative to appear on a regular basis on America’s Black Forum syndicated TV show. He provides commentary for other black television networks, and is author of a syndicated newspaper column appearing in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Times, and the Amsterdam News. He is author of a book, and has been a guest on CNN, Fox News Channel, ABC, CBS, C-Span, and CNBC.
One of ten children, Armstrong Williams was born to James and Thelma Williams on February 5, 1959 in Marion, South Carolina, a farming community. The family owned a 200-acre tobacco and swine farm, with 30 of those acres in tobacco, acreage in small grain, and about 2,000 heads of swine. But the young Williams did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps. “I hated it. That’s hard, physical labor. I knew if I stayed on that farm it would have killed me,” he told Insight on the News. He and his nine brothers and sisters were expected to do their share of the hard work on the farm, and in later praise he said he learned his work ethic, discipline, routine, and family values from his parents.
Born on February 5, 1959, in Marion, SC; son of Thelma Williams and James Williams (a farmer). Education: South Carolina State College, B.A., with honors, 1981. Religion: Pentecostal.
Career: Office of Senator Strom Thurmond, legislative aide, 1980-1981; Office of Congressman Carroll Campbell, legislative aide, 1981; Office of Congressman Floyd Spence, legislative aide, 1981; U.S. Department of Agriculture, legislative assistant, 1981-1983;
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, confidential assistant to chairman, 1983; Los Angeles Times Syndicate, syndicated columnist, currently; The Right Side, syndicated radio talk show host, currently; syndicated television talk show host, currently; B&C Associates; Graham Williams Group, CEO, currently.
Selected Memberships: Dupree Construction, board of advisors, 1981-; Complex Association, board of directors, 1982-; Child-Help USA, advisory board, 1982-; Travis Winkey Fashion Magazine, chairman, board of directors, 1982-; Smooth as Silk Enterprises, consultant marketer, 1984-.
Selected Awards: Bicentennial Speaking Award, 1976; ROTC Sojourner Award, 1978; Youth of the Year, Congressional Black Caucus, 1982-1983; Liberal Arts Howard University School of Liberal Arts, 1983-1984; One of 30 Most Influential Young Blacks in America Under 30, March 1985; Phil Donahue Show, “America’s Top Black Conservatives.”
Addresses: Office—CEO, Graham Williams Group, P.O. Box 33085, Washington, DC 20033.
Religion was an integral part of the Williams home, but the Williams family did not all worship at the same church. Mr. Williams was an African Methodist Episcopalian and nine of the children chose to worship with their father; Mrs. Williams belonged to the Pentecostal Church and Armstrong attended with her. Williams and his siblings were required to go to church on Sunday even if they were sick. His religion greatly influenced his life and work, as he told Insight on the News: “I get my fire and brimstone and energy from that Pentecostal Church. It’s in me—that enthusiasm, that zest for life, that love for the Lord; I get it from there.” His family life and teachings influenced all aspects of his life. “Our parents taught us love and forgiveness and how to move beyond and to believe in God,” he continued. Williams cites the Bible as favorite reading.
Williams attended South Carolina State College, majoring in English and political science. He was president of the student body for two consecutive terms. In 1980 he worked for one year in the office of Senator Strom Thurmond, serving as legislative aide. He formed a close relationship with the senator and Williams would later refer to Thurmond as his mentor and leader. He graduated in 1981 with honors, and was the first in his family to graduate from college. He worked as a legislative aide to Congressman Carroll Campbell in 1981 and also for Congressman Floyd Spence, a Republican from South Carolina. From there he went to work as a legislative assistant in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, serving from 1981 to 1983. The next year, he worked in the office of Clarence Thomas, serving as his confidential assistant. Thomas, at the time, was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and went on to become a Supreme Court justice.
After his work for Thomas, Williams began working at B & C Associates, a black-owned public relations firm. After four years, he and Stedman Graham, whom he’d met at B & C, formed the Graham Williams Group in Washington, an international public relations firm. Two high-profile clients were USAir and real estate firm Century 21. Graham later sold his half to Williams to pursue other interests, and Williams became chief executive officer of the firm.
Williams also began a journalistic career. His newspaper column about values first appeared in The Marion Star/Mullins Enterprise. The column was picked up by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and was distributed to over 50 newspapers nationally.
In 1992 Williams began his The Right Side nightly syndicated radio talk show on WOL-AM in Washington, D.C. The show moved a short time later to WAVA-FM, a Christian-format station owned by the Salem Radio Network. By 1995 it was heard on 40 radio stations throughout the country. In July of 1994, he joined the Talk America Network. He aired his opinions frequently and loudly about his personal views of the ills of society—abortion, premarital sex, adultery, homosexual marriages, and racism, whether it is white against black or black against white—garnering lively debates in the show’s call-in format. Williams later expanded his message to television, also calling the talk show “The Right Side,” and featuring interviews with a variety of people in all walks of life, including industry specialists and Washington insiders. The show airs weekly on Friday nights. In 1998 he began two weekly shows on America Online, and also appears on the Heritage Foundation web site, “Town Hall.”
Williams’ book, Beyond Blame: How We Can Succeed By Breaking the Dependency Barrier, was published in 1995; it explores black culture and its fostering of victimization. Written in letter style, Williams writes a letter in each chapter to a black conservative 29-year-old man, named Brad, who is in prison for hustling and who is trying to turn his life around. Williams’ compassionate and provocative letters argue that personal responsibility rather than the helping hand of the government is what is needed for blacks like Brad. The book was issued in paperback in October of 1996 under the title Letters to a Young Victim: Hope and Healing in American’s Inner Cities. When he’s not busy running his public relations firm, writing his column, hosting his radio and television shows, Williams also is a noted speaker at various events and conferences.
Coming from a three-generation conservative Republican family certainly influenced Williams in his own conduct of life. He was quoted as saying in a Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service story, “My conservatism was taught me by my parents. It is rooted in the Ten Commandments of the Bible.” He does not smoke, drink alcohol, use profane language, and does not believe in premarital sex. He has stated that he is married to his profession but that one day, perhaps when he reached his forties, he would start looking for a wife. He believes most Americans share traditional moral values, and he lives accordingly. And his listeners, his fans, and his opponents, will always know where he stands, as he told Insight on the News. “I’m not ever going to tell people what they want to hear just to get along with them. And I’m not ever going to compromise what I believe in for a job or money. I’ll crawl first.”
Who’s Who Among African Americans, 12th Edition, Gale Group, 1999.
Insight on the News, March 29, 1995, p. 15; May 29, 1995, p. 37; April 6, 1998, p. 21.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, June 12, 1995.
—Sandy J. Stiefer