Linda Williams, 57, Expert on Race and Gender at U-Md.

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 2, 2006

Linda Faye Williams, 57, a political scientist at the University of Maryland and an expert on race and gender politics, died of a heart attack Oct. 16 at Montgomery General Hospital in Olney. She was a Rockville resident.

A former professor at Howard University, Dr. Williams also held positions with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

"Of all the major organizations in the African American community, I can't think of one that her research doesn't touch," said Lorenzo Morris, a political scientist at Howard University.

She wrote numerous articles and books, including "Constraint of Race: Legacies of White Skin Privilege in America" (2004), which won three national book awards, including one from the American Political Science Association for the year's best book on race, ethnicity and politics.

"There can be little genuine progress in solving the so-called race problem or in creating the kind of citizenship all Americans deserve unless and until continuing white skin privilege is openly acknowledged and addressed," she wrote.

She also was co-editor with her husband, Howard University sociologist Ralph C. Gomes, of "From Exclusion to Inclusion: The Long Struggle for African American Political Power" (1995).

"She had this quiet, sweet lyrical kind of Southern presence," Morris said, "but she was a highly demanding researcher. If you strayed from the data, the demolition you'd receive would be devastating."

She was born in Lovelady, Tex., a tiny community in the East Texas Piney Woods, and grew up in an even smaller community, Smith's Grove ("a suburb of greater Lovelady," a friend called it).

Her college roommate, Linda Collins, recalled a story Dr. Williams told her about how, as a youngster, she yearned to be a yodeler. She practiced around the house day and night until her mother couldn't take it anymore.

"Imagine her frustration," Collins recalled, "when her mama took her aside and said, 'Honey, I don't want to disappoint you, but Negroes can't yodel.' "

She graduated in 1966 from the all-black Center Grove High School, where her mother taught music and typing and her father was the basketball coach, math teacher and principal.

She played flute and piccolo in the school marching band and despite taking only rudimentary math classes and never having a lab for science class, was a National Merit Scholar.

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