Avon Williams III, 45, a former diplomat who served as acting general counsel of the Department of the Army, died after a severe asthma attack July 9 while visiting a tourist site in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. He lived in Arlington and Brentwood, Tenn.

Mr. Williams was appointed by President Bush on Sept. 17, 2001, to serve as principal deputy general counsel of the Department of the Army. He had completed a second term as acting general counsel June 30 and was principal deputy at the time of his death.

"He absolutely had finally found a place where he loved his work and where he felt he really belonged and had an impact," said his sister, Wendy Williams of Nashville. "It was a great fit. He dedicated himself to helping others find their own potential."

Before coming to Washington, Mr. Williams had served as general counsel of the Tennessee Department of Safety and as the state's assistant commissioner for business services. He also was a commercial and investment banker, a lawyer, and a political analyst and commentator in the media.

From 1985 to 1989, Mr. Williams was a Foreign Service officer with the State Department. His diplomatic postings included vice consul in Manila during the 1986 "people power" revolution and adviser for political and security affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. He also was the desk officer for Eastern Caribbean affairs at the State Department.

Mr. Williams, a native of Nashville, was the son of a prominent civil rights lawyer and former Tennessee state senator. He was a maternal grandson of Harlem Renaissance scholar Arna W. Bontemps and a cousin of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics from Williams College in Massachusetts and received a law degree in 1984 from the University of Texas at Austin.

"He went from being an undisciplined person in his youth to become organized and high-achieving," his sister said. "He was always trying to challenge himself more."

In Washington, Mr. Williams was active in Faith in Action, a Christian outreach group.

His marriage to Alice Randall Williams ended in divorce.

In addition to his sister, survivors include his wife of 10 years, Janita Wolfe Williams of Brentwood; a daughter from his first marriage, Caroline Williams of Nashville; three children from his second marriage, Cole Williams, Amory Williams and Jonah Williams, all of Brentwood; and three stepchildren, Corey Thomas, Will Thomas and Christopher Thomas, all of Brentwood.