Bob Williams profoundly touched the lives of several generations of men and women, the majority of them native New Yorkers who came through the Sports Foundation Inc., the non-profit organization he co-founded in the Bronx in 1969. Over the succeeding decades, the Sports Foundation became a cornerstone of the future achievements of hundreds of youth that became doctors, lawyers, public servants, professional athletes and leaders in other fulfilling careers.
Most significantly, Williams’ lasting legacy is that of nurturing conscientious husbands, wives, mothers, fathers and caretakers who have paid their good fortune forward. On Monday, Williams, who passed away in July of 2018 at the age of 77, was honored for his remarkable service by having the intersection of 149th Street and Third Avenue in the Bronx renamed Robert A. Williams Way.
Among those to formally speak at the event was current NYC Department of Education Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter, who on March 15 became the first Black woman to ever hold that position. Ross-Porter was an intern for Williams at the Sports Foundation long before her historic ascendance. New York City Councilman Rafael Salamanca also addressed the attendees. The Democrat represents the 17th Council District, which includes 149th Street and Third Avenue, located in the Melrose section of the Bronx.
The day came about as a result of Tiffany Williams’ determination to ensure her father’s name and life’s work endures. “I went to the City Council with the proposal and they approved it on the spot,” said Williams, who is a member of the Sports Foundation board. “It was extremely meaningful to my family and me.”
The emotions were shared by her mother, Emilda Williams, Bob’s widow and indomitable soulmate, who was steadfastly by Bob’s side as he battled a painful illness in the two-plus years preceding his transition.
“It’s the happiest I have been since his death,” said the Williams matriarch of the renaming ceremony. “Bob was an incredible man who meant so much to so many people.”
A son of the Bronx, with deep and proud family roots in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, the 6-4 Williams was a star basketball player for Theodore Roosevelt High School before emerging as a standout performer for New York University, which he helped lead to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1963. Williams was one of the first Americans to play professionally overseas and was a mainstay at Harlem’s famed Rucker League, going up against some of the great NBA and playground ballers of his era.
A humble sage with a commanding, baritone voice, Williams was a co-founder, board member and inductee of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame, and a well respected figure across the global basketball landscape.