Hon. Ann Claire Williams (Ret.) ’75 J.D.

Judge Williams was born in Detroit, Michigan. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Wayne State University in Elementary Education and a Master of Arts in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Michigan. A lifelong educator and public servant, Judge Williams taught inner city Detroit Public Schools students before attending law school. She received her Juris Doctor from Notre Dame Law School.

President Ronald Reagan nominated her in 1985 to the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, making her the first woman of color to serve on a district court in the three-state Seventh Circuit. In 1999, President William Clinton’s nomination made her the first and only judge of color to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the third woman of color to serve on any federal circuit court.

Judge Williams has served on many judicial committees and, as treasurer and president of the Federal Judges Association, was the first person of color to become an officer. Committed to public interest work throughout her life, she helped found Just The Beginning — A Pipeline Organization, the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Chicago, and Minority Legal Education Resources. She serves on the boards of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the University of Notre Dame, the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA), Equal Justice Works, and the Museum of Science & Industry Chicago.

A trailblazer and leader, Judge Williams is devoted to promoting the effective delivery of justice worldwide, particularly in Africa. She has partnered with judiciaries, attorneys, NGOs, and the U.S. Departments of Justice and State to lead training programs in Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. She also has taught at the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.