G. Mennen (Soapy) Williams, 76, a former judge, ambassador and six-term Michigan governor who had served as assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 1961 to 1966, died yesterday at a hospital in Detroit after a stroke. He lived in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.
A gregarious and zestful individual, he wore the label of the liberal Democrat with pride and took to the political arena with relish. His green bow tie was a trademark known on two continents.
He was governor of Michigan from 1949 to 1961, and the state legislature was rarely in his corner. But he fought successfully for a comprehensive civil rights program and he appointed blacks to the state cabinet and the courts.
He also was largely responsible for a massive state building and highway expansion program, including the construction of the Mackinac Bridge, which connects Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas. In addition, he oversaw improvements in housing, education and youth corrections programs.
His biggest battle was over taxation. With state employees facing "payless" paydays and the state treasury running on empty, he compromised with the legislature shortly before leaving office. The legislature had favored securing additional funding by raising the state sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent. Gov. Williams, who said that idea was not progressive, favored a state income tax and a corporate profits tax.
Gov. Williams was long active in national Democratic politics, serving as vice chairman of the national committee in the 1950s. He was a leading supporter of Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.) for the 1960 presidential nomination and used his considerable skills campaigning for him in the general election.
When it was announced that President Kennedy was naming him assistant secretary of state for Africa, there was criticism that the governor had no experience in foreign affairs. But he went at the job with his usual boundless energy and he became an eloquent, if sometimes misunderstood, American voice on the turbulent continent.
During the first of his several African journeys, he made a remark to the effect that he thought Africa should be for Africans. After a firestorm of protest in the diplomatic corps, he explained that he was not referring only to blacks, but to everyone living in Africa, regardless of race.
In a statement issued after Gov. Williams' death, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) recalled that incident and the way the president reacted to it. "When our European Allies complained to Jack about Soapy's advocacy of 'Africa for the Africans,' my brother gave the famous reply, 'I don't know who else Africa should be for.' " The senator went on to say that "Gov. Williams was one of the great progressive leaders of his time."
Under President Johnson, Gov. Williams directed preparation of a blueprint for future American policy in Africa. He resigned from the State Department in 1966 to run for the Senate. His defeat that year by Republican Robert Griffin was the only one he ever suffered.
Gov. Williams was ambassador to the Philippines from 1968 to 1969. He became a member of the Michigan Supreme Court in 1971 and served three years as its chief justice before retiring in 1986. Since then, he had taught at the University of Detroit law school.
Gerhard Mennen Williams was born Feb. 23, 1911, in Detroit. His maternal grandfather was a founder of the Mennen soap and toiletries company, from which the future governor earned his nickname. He was a 1933 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Princeton University, where he was president of the Young Republicans. He earned his law degree at the University of Michigan, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif.
During World War II, he served in the Pacific aboard several carriers, attaining the Navy rank of lieutenant commander. In 1948, he was an upset victor in both the primary and general elections for governor of Michigan.
Survivors include his wife of 50 years, the former Nancy Lace Quirk; three children, and eight grandchildren.
FRANCES E. LINDEN, 67, a former general manager of the National Ballet and volunteer coordinator of the American Symphony Orchestra League, died Jan. 31 at Holy Cross Hospital after a heart attack. She lived in Silver Spring.
Mrs. Linden joined the staff of the National Ballet in 1965 as assistant to the general manager. From 1974 until 1977, she was general manager of the organization. The company suspended operations in 1976 and Mrs. Linden's last duties involved closing it down.
She then went to work for the National Symphony League. She stayed there until she was named volunteer coordinator at the American Symphony Orchestra League. She retired in 1984.
Mrs. Linden was born in Lynn, Mass. She grew up in the Boston area and moved to Washington about 1940. During World War II, she went to work for the War Department and became a research analyst in Army intelligence. She attended American University and the University of Maryland program in Europe.
In 1950, she resigned from what was by then the Department of the Army and married John R. Linden, an Army colonel. She accompanied him on assignments to Germany and Japan as well as to various posts in this country.
The Lindens returned here in 1959. Until she joined the National Ballet, Mrs. Linden assisted her husband in various international trading companies he established.
Mrs. Linden was a former president of the Berlin Women's Club of the Armed Forces and the Far East Women's Club. She also had been president of the officers' wives clubs at Bad Kreuznach and Mainz, West Germany.
Mrs. Linden was a member of the Woodside United Methodist Church in Silver Spring and was recording secretary of its administrative board. She was vice president of the Women's Republican Club of Silver Spring and secretary of the Maryland Federation of Republican Women.
Survivors include her husband, of Silver Spring.
BESSE SILVERSTONE SHRAGER, 88, a longtime resident of the Washington area, died of sepsis Jan. 30 at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville.
Mrs. Shrager was born in Belfast. She grew up in Washington and lived here until 1921, when she moved to Plainfield, N.J. There she helped found the local chapter of Hadassah.
In 1963, Mrs. Shrager returned here. She lived in Washington until 1978, when she moved to Rockville.
Her husband, Herman Louis Shrager, died in 1952. A daughter, Robin Shrager Gerson, died in 1961.
Survivors include two children, Elinore S. Heyman of Bethesda and Marvin C. Shrager of Plainfield; two brothers, Rabbi Harry Silverstone of Washington and Philip Silverstone of Bethesda; two sisters, Anne Hurwitz of Washington and Miriam Becker of Rockville; eight grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.