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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Summer Reading Program 2006
Life on the Color Line
About the Author

by Rev. Stephen Butler Murray, Chaplain and Philosophy & Religion

 Gregory Howard Williams is the President of The City College of New York, the flagship college of The City University of New York, where he has served since 2001. Born in 1943, Williams underwent a significant period of racial turmoil in his childhood, detailed in his memoir Life on the Color Line: The True Story of A White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black (New York: Plume 1996). At a pivotal moment in his adolescence Williams discovered that his presumptions of being white, growing up in segregated Virginia, were changed radically by a move to Muncie, Indiana, when he discovered that his father's family was black. As his father had struggled to overcome significant obstacles to go to college at Howard University, although he never graduated, so Williams was encouraged to cultivate a passion for education and knowledge. This provided stability and direction during this time of identity upheaval in his life. Williams graduated from Ball State University, literally next door to his father's house, which he paid for by working full-time concurrently as a deputy sheriff. He went on to receive his J.D. and Ph.D. from George Washington University, during which time he worked as an aide to a United States Senator. In addition to his five earned degrees, Williams has received three honorary doctorates.

Williams has served as a faculty member and university administrator for nearly thirty years, including posts at George Washington University and the University of Iowa. Prior to his appointment to the presidency of City College, Williams was Dean and Carter C. Kissell Professor of Law at the Ohio State University. While Williams has published three books and a number of articles, he is known best for Life on the Color Line, which vaulted him to national attention in the 1990s. Honored by the Los Angeles Times and the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America, Williams' memoir will soon be filmed by Depasse Entertainment and Showtime Productions.

Williams has authored articles and book reviews for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post. In 1999 he was named the first recipient of the National Bar Association's A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Preservation of Human and Civil Rights. Also in 1999 he was selected as "Dean of the Year" by the National Association of Public Interest Law. He is a past President of the Association of American Law Schools, and a member of the Commission on Minorities in Higher Education of the American Council on Education and an appointee of the American Bar Association to the Board of Directors of the Council on Legal Education.


The City College of New York. "The President of City College." Accessed 1 August 2006.

Holmes, Marie. Education Update Online. "College President Series: Gregory H. Williams: President, City College." October 2002. <

Williams, Gregory Howard. Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He was Black. New York: Plume, 1996.