The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

W. Gregory Wims

William Gregory Wims was born on September 2, 1949 in Bethesda, Maryland. His mother worked as a domestic and his father was a laborer. He earned his high school diploma from Gaithersburg, High School in 1968, where he played on the track and football teams and was active in civil rights sit-ins.

From 1968 until 1970, Wims attended Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland. In 1969, he was named the Vice President of the Maryland Youth Commission. In 1970 he transferred to Howard University but left before earning his degree.

In 1972, Wims was hired as the coordinator for the Extension Service for the 4-H Club of Montgomery County. In 1974, he became the first male Head Start Teacher in Montgomery County and worked on Republican Newton Stears’ campaign for Congress. From 1976 until 1978, he worked as Stears’ legislative assistant and became the first African American professional from Montgomery County to work on Capitol Hill. In 1978, Wims became a legislative assistant for Congressman Melvin Evans. From 1981 until 1989, he worked in the legislative affairs office for the Secretary of Agriculture and a Special Assistant to the Director for Minority Affairs and Economic Development. In 1989 he started his consulting firm, Hammer and Nails, which assists local businesses in working with the federal government.

In the early 1990s, Wims served as the membership chairperson for the NAACP, recruiting more than a thousand new members. In 1994, he was elected president of the Montgomery County Chapter of the NAACP. During his tenure, he was successful in highlighting discrimination claims of African American employees at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH case received local and national media coverage and led to Wims becoming president of the Maryland NAACP chapter. In 1996, Wims founded the Victims Rights Foundation (VRF), an organization providing financial and emotional support to crime victims. Through the VRF Wims was able to provide thousands of dollars to the families of the Washington, D.C. sniper victims in 2003.

Accession Number




Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category
Middle Name



Gaithersburg High School

Gaithersburg Senior High School

Howard University

First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination

Southern California

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City




Favorite Food

Italian Food

Short Description

Business consulting chief executive W. Gregory Wims (1949 - ) was the former president of the Montgomery County Chapter of the NAACP, the Maryland NAACP, and served as the vice president of the Maryland Youth Commission.


4-H Club of Montgomery County

United States House of Representatives

United States Department of Agriculture

Director of Minority Affairs and Economic Development

Hammer and Nails

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

Montgomery County NAACP

Victims Rights Foundation

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of W. Gregory Wims' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - W. Gregory Wims lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - W. Gregory Wims describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - W. Gregory Wims describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - W. Gregory Wims describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - W. Gregory Wims talks about his maternal and paternal ancestors

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - W. Gregory Wims describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - W. Gregory Wims recalls walking to school and childhood activities

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - W. Gregory Wims describes his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - W. Gregory Wims describes his childhood community of Stewart Town in Gaithersburg, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - W. Gregory Wims describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - W. Gregory Wims describes his experiences in elementary school in Gaithersburg, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - W. Gregory Wims describes his personality in elementary school in Gaithersburg, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - W. Gregory Wims describes his experiences at Gaithersburg Junior High School in Gaithersburg, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - W. Gregory Wims describes his experiences at Gaithersburg Senior High School in Gaithersburg, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - W. Gregory Wims talks about his views on the Civil Rights Movement during high school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - W. Gregory Wims describes his experiences at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - W. Gregory Wims describes his experience attending Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - W. Gregory Wims describes his first jobs in public service after leaving college in 1972

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - W. Gregory Wims talks about working as a legislative aide in the United States Congress

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - W. Gregory Wims describes his experience working in the administration of President Ronald Wilson Reagan

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - W. Gregory Wims talks about his role working on the 8(a) program for the federal government

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - W. Gregory Wims describes his involvement with civil rights issues and the NAACP

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - W. Gregory Wims describes his work fighting discrimination at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - W. Gregory Wims considers the effects of his work fighting discrimination at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - W. Gregory Wims describes his work fighting discrimination at GEICO and Hughes Network Systems

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - W. Gregory Wims describes his tenure as president of the Maryland NAACP chapter

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - W. Gregory Wims talks about organizing a task force to study discrimination in the federal government

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - W. Gregory Wims talks about his hopes for the future of the NAACP

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - W. Gregory Wims talks about starting the Victims' Rights Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - W. Gregory Wims describes the work of the Victims' Rights Foundation during the Beltway sniper attacks in 2002

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - W. Gregory Wims talks about his hopes and plans for the Victims' Rights Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - W. Gregory Wims describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - W. Gregory Wims reflects upon his life and considers whether he would have done anything differently

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - W. Gregory Wims talks about why he thinks history is important

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - W. Gregory Wims shares his values

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - W. Gregory Wims talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - W. Gregory Wims reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - W. Gregory Wims relates his hopes for the future

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - W. Gregory Wims narrates his photographs







W. Gregory Wims describes his work fighting discrimination at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland
W. Gregory Wims talks about starting the Victims' Rights Foundation
Let's talk a little bit about your involvement with the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] in the early '90s [1990s], so around '92 [1992] or so. You were very active fighting against discrimination at the National Institutes of Health [NIH]--$$Yes.$$--in Bethesda [Maryland]; tell us a little bit about--$$Okay.$$--how that all came about.$$Okay. Well, first I have to go back to my father [Earl Wims] being a fighter, although, he only went to the third grade and that's always been in me. And then with the great experience that I like to say, from Capitol Hill [Washington, D.C.], four years, and then with the [President Ronald Wilson] Reagan administration working at the White House [Washington, D.C.] and that; as a matter of fact, I even traveled abroad, went to Africa, to several countries as an ambassador for the president. There was a lot of things that I learned and did in those eight years working for President Reagan. When the NAACP first approached me to work with them, I used all that knowledge that I had, one in recruiting members. And when I first--well, actually, I was--I said I was the vice president, I was actually the director of membership for the NAACP, locally, Montgomery County [Maryland] from '90 [1990]--probably '90 [1990] to '91 [1991], for about two years. And then that's when I ran for president because I had brought in 1,000 members; it's like unheard of, anywhere in the nation. If you think about it, ask that--an individual bring in 1,000 members--$$How were you so successful with your recruiting?$$Because I learned the marketing skills again, working on Capitol Hill and understanding media and relationships and working with the president and with the companies around the nation. I just had a feel for how to present material. I would sell information. And so I would present the NAACP as the only avenue for civil rights and that I made a commitment to them that we would work and not just be a paper tiger, and people believed then that message and so we--and we did some things. But when I became president, I had watched from my mother [Rachel Stewart Wims] cleaning houses of doctors and scientists at NIH, how they had an opinion that they were like God; that they were more important than anybody. And so I've never forgotten that part, that they were human beings like all of us. If you--in an auto accident, you bleed like everybody else if you--and when I was at NI--the president of NAACP, the first group of people that came to me, they were literally thirty women and about--there were thirty-five guys saying, "We're being discriminated against. We cannot get, in the janitorial thing, permanent status, we're, we're indentured servants," as I called it. Now, see, they were--what they were, they were contract employees, five, ten years some of them, no health insurance, no benefits at all. They worked for a salary, you know, and it was ridiculous, in the federal government. The women who came, I cannot move as a secretary to the next level, get a grade raise say from a GS-5 [General Schedule] to a GS-7 because a white woman would come in, I would train her and then she would move ahead to maybe a GS-7 and that would happen almost every time with the women 'cause there's always white women against the women. And then some of the other guys who happened to be, sort of, maybe professional, a few, not that many, first came to me, they were a GS-9, which is still low, but they couldn't get the promotions just because of racism. So with that information, I held a meeting and asked people to come, and to my surprise, one hundred employees came to the meeting and they all had stories; I mean, I couldn't believe it. I said one hundred people, would you certify--would you sign a letter saying that you have been discriminated--and from there on I was so outraged as the leader. We had to talk--we were working with the NAACP, we had to get permission from the executive board said, "This is the issue. I would like to have a press conference and I would like to denounce all of this." And the folks who had been there for years said, "Well, we have heard of these things, but until you came and really put it all together, we didn't realize it was this widespread." So they gave me permission and we went down and what was so big about this where it go to be a national story and an international story, the employees came out with me to the press conference, and that had never been heard of, where people who worked for the government would come out and fight against the government. And we ended up going back because nothing would happen, each week for three weeks and it grew to 200 employees, stood with me and the NAACP in that third week, and then the lady, the director said, "Yes, we have a problem."$$And was it Bernadine Healy at that time?$$Bernadine Healy. She was one of the few people in all my NAACP history would admit that they were doing something wrong and said, "Yes, we have a problem. We're going to work it out." And it turned out that we helped a lot of those people and it was a great experience. But there was actually a public hearing on Capitol Hill. Congressman Albert Wynn, an African American congressman who rep--$$From Maryland?$$--from Maryland, who now is part of the Congressional Black Caucus, held hearings to talk and called the scientists and doctors in and my statement was, "These guys are not God. They should treat us taxpayers, although, we're working there, as human beings." I remember that statement. And we had some things changed.$So, around the mid to late '90s [1990s], you started becoming involved--you started getting involved in victims' rights issues.$$Yes.$$Tell me a little bit about what spurred your involvement in victims' rights issues.$$When I left the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People], I wanted to--I like to call myself a renaissance person. You know, the issues are there, but people see, but they don't know what to do with it. So when it comes to victims, I'm saying, "Well, every day there's a victim in our community and people are saddened by it. They don't know what to do." So I said, "From my experience again, through the church, the NAACP," I said, "What can we do to help them?" So what I thought of, and I got several colleagues to start the Victims' Rights Foundation, a 501(c)(3), a non-profit foundation, is to one, volunteer. Everything we do will be volunteer, that no one will get paid, no matter how busy we are, how widespread that we're known throughout the nation, because people need to know that we care about them, that's why we volunteer. Two, to go to court with the families that are victims when they have to look at for the first time, the person who committed the crime, whether it was someone who murdered their loved one, or someone who abused their child or whatever. And, usually, court dates only go from two to a week. You know, you see on TV these long trials, but for most victims, it's mostly, low income on low income; I wouldn't say black on black 'cause there's all kinds of victims, but those trials don't last that long. So for two days to a week, we would sit with the family and support them during the trial, and that means a lot because usually the family members are only one to three people, but yet, the lawyer has his people and the family, 'cause they're trying to stop the person from going to jail. There might be ten or fifteen on the criminal side, as I call it, but on the victim's side it's just us. And then the third thing, so it's very--there's only three goals in, in the organization, is that we would raise money to help some family members that were desperate for medical or burial on some cases, there might even be a reward that we put out for something that's really bad with crime solving. So in starting that organization, we have been able to help now in eight years we have been volunteering, you know, several dozen families, but we've raised something like a million dollars for help, and we have been to court maybe twenty-five times or so with families over the last eight years with Victims' Rights Foundation.$$But was there any particular case or issue that really initiated this?$$That's a good question, because it was inspired again, I call it divine intervention by God, because I've never been a victim or any one of my immediate family and people ask me that, they're really surprised. I'm blessed, and I'm hoping I won't be a victim or no one in my family, but I can see from just church work what was happening.$$Is it victims of violent crimes?$$Yes.$$Okay.$$Because we don't, can't help--because we're volunteering.$$Sure.$$We--strictly, the worst of the crimes. And I have to say, sometimes I pray to God as a God, why do you let me see these things? Because when I go to see a--like a case we're working on now, a mother went to the store and she came back, her nine-year-old daughter was shot in the back and her husband shot several times in a robbery, and I'm dealing with the mother now who's crying almost every time we see her on my shoulder. I say, "Man." and that gets me. Why do you see--but if it wasn't for us helping her, she probably wouldn't be able to make it.$$Right.$$So it's victims of violent crime, and we support them in a volunteer effort.$$But was there any particular case, in particular?$$Oh, now this started--there was one case that you know how everyone says, "I'm going to do something about that?" Three African American women, ages nineteen through twenty-three, went out to a club after work on a Friday night just to have a good time. Some man approached them and evidently, he wanted to try to rob them or try to rape them, but whatever the situation, it didn't work and he killed all three young ladies, nineteen to twenty-three. And the bad part about it, 'cause we had not seen that kind of thing before, he drove them off from where he murdered them, as we now know now because the trial has already happened, and dumped their bodies on the side of a road in Prince George's County, Maryland, and it just so happened it was adjacent to the [U.S.] Department of Agriculture's research building there. And that's when I said, "Boom, somebody has to do something. This is the most horrifying thing we've ever seen." Called our friends, and on that one, we actually raised money to put up a reward. We put up a reward. It was on TV. We counseled the families, and then we went to court with 'em and that started a long campaign now of eight years going.$$And did the reward lead to the arrest of the--$$As it turned out--$$--perpetrator?$$--we could put the money back in the bank. The good detective work helped, but what the reward did was gave it more media attention. It wasn't just another statistic, 'cause after a couple weeks people forget and they move on, but we kept it in the media for--actually, it was about four months. They didn't catch the person 'til about eight months out, actually. And that's what we do also with the media, we keep it alive.