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E. T. Williams

E.T. Williams, CEO of Elnora, Inc., was born Edgar Thomas Williams, Jr., on October 14, 1937, in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Edgar Thomas Williams, Sr., was a real estate and insurance broker and his mother, Elnora Bing Williams Morris, was a homemaker. In the 1940s, Williams attended Elliott School in Brooklyn. During his junior year in high school, he was elected president of the student body, as well as president of the Brooklyn-Staten Island Chapter of the Junior Red Cross. He was also captain of his high school track and fencing teams. Receiving his diploma in 1955 from Eastern District High School, Williams attended Brooklyn College that same year. During college, he served as president of the Brooklyn College Chapter of the NAACP, raised money for the sit-ins in the South, and received the Rheingold Good Neighbor Award for his community service. Williams received his B.A. degree in economics from Brooklyn College in 1960. He received his real estate and insurance license in 1959 to take over his father’s business while his father recovered from an illness.

Williams joined the Experiment of International Living Program in the early 1960s and lived abroad for six months in India. Upon his return to the United States, Williams taught at P.S. 35, a junior high school in Brooklyn, New York. After teaching, he went to work for the Peace Corps as a volunteer in Ethiopia. In 1963, Williams attended the March on Washington, where he stood behind Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his “I Have a Dream” speech. Williams then moved to Washington, D.C., where he continued his work with the Peace Corps for three more years. During his time at the Peace Corps, Williams took classes in business affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies.

Williams’ professional career in finance began in 1968 when he joined the Maryland National Bank as a banker. In 1969, Williams became the first African American officer of a commercial bank in the State of Maryland. He worked there until 1971 when he returned to New York City, joined Chase Manhattan and began working in institutional banking as a lending officer. Williams left banking in 1982 and returned to real estate as chairman of the board and head of the Fordham Hill Project, the largest eviction co-op conversion in the history of New York City. He retired in 1992 and began Elnora, Inc., a private family investment company. He serves on the Board of Directors of Fiduciary Trust Co. of New York and served as chair of the audit committee for eight years.

Williams is an avid African American art collector. Included in his collection are works of art by Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Aaron Douglas. He owns the estate of Hale Woodruff and donated a sizeable portion of it to the Studio Museum in Harlem and other museums. Williams is a member of Sigma Pi Phi, Zeta Chapter of the Boulé; the Comus Club of Brooklyn; the Reveille Club of New York; the Knickerbocker Club and the University Club of the City of New York. He also sits on several museum boards, including the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Other boards include the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; the Nature Conservancy (the Long Island Chapter); the Trinity Church Wall Street; the Central Park Conservancy; and the Cathedral Church of St. John The Divine. Williams continues to collect art in New York City, Sag Harbor, Long Island; Dark Harbor, Maine; and Naples, Florida; where he resides with his wife and family. He is married to Auldlyn Higgins Williams, and they have two grown daughters (Brooke and Eden).

For further information on E.T. Williams see index of Our Kind of People by Lawrence Otis Graham; New York Magazine cover story, “Blacks at the Top” January 19, 1987 issue and Black Enterprise Magazine cover story, “The Co-Op King,” April, 1986 issue.

Accession Number

A2006.167

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/13/2006

Last Name

Williams

Maker Category
Schools

Eastern District High School

Elliott School

Brooklyn College

First Name

E.T.

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

WIL32

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/14/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Investment chief executive E. T. Williams (1937 - ) was chief executive and founder of Elnora, Inc., a private family investment firm. He was the former head of the Fordham Hill Project, the largest eviction co-op conversion in the history of New York City, and was an avid collector of African American art.

Employment

Edgar T. Williams & Son

Peace Corps

Maryland National Bank

American Bankers Association

Chase Manhattan Bank

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373061">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of E.T. Williams' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373062">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - E.T. Williams lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373063">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - E.T. Williams describes his mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373064">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - E.T. Williams describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373065">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - E.T. Williams describes Yemassee, South Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373066">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - E.T. Williams describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373067">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - E.T. Williams describes his father's youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373068">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - E.T. Williams talks about his father's career in real estate and insurance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373069">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - E.T. Williams describes his family's upper class status</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373070">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - E.T. Williams recalls briefly operating a window cleaning business</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373071">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - E.T. Williams describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373072">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - E.T. Williams describes the community of Greenwood Lake, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373073">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - E.T. Williams describes his daily life as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373074">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - E.T. Williams describes the elite African American society of New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373075">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - E.T. Williams describes his father-in-law</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373076">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - E.T. Williams talks about his family's real estate investments</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373077">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - E.T. Williams describes the sights and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373078">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - E.T. Williams recalls his time in school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373079">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - E.T. Williams recalls teaching upon graduating from Brooklyn College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373080">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - E.T. Williams describes his activities at Eastern District High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373081">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - E.T. Williams recalls his decision to attend Brooklyn College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373082">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - E.T. Williams describes his social life at Brooklyn College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373083">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - E.T. Williams describes his aspirations at Brooklyn College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373084">Tape: 2 Story: 11 - E.T. Williams recalls his experience in India</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373085">Tape: 2 Story: 12 - E.T. Williams explains his decision to teach</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373086">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - E.T. Williams describes his experiences of racial discrimination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373087">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - E.T. Williams describes his Peace Corps service in Ethiopia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373088">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - E.T. Williams talks about Paul Tsongas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373089">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - E.T. Williams recalls his transition from the Peace Corps to a banking career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373090">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - E.T. Williams recalls advocating for African Americans as a banker</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373091">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - E.T. Williams remembers attending the March on Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373092">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - E.T. Williams describes his career at Chase Manhattan Bank</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373093">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - E.T. Williams considers his impact on the diversity of Chase Manhattan Bank</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373094">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - E.T. Williams recalls being asked to develop a housing cooperative at Fordham Hill</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373095">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - E.T. Williams describes his conversion of Fordham Hill in the Bronx, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373096">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - E.T. Williams describes the success of the Fordham Hill housing cooperative</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373097">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - E.T. Williams talks about his properties</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373098">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - E.T. Williams describes his art collection</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373099">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - E.T. Williams remembers acquiring Hale Woodruff's estate</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373100">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - E.T. Williams talks about leading African American artists and collectors</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373101">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - E.T. Williams talks about the art he acquired abroad</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373102">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - E.T. Williams talks about the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village Cooperative</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373103">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - E.T. Williams describes his organizational memberships</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373104">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - E.T. Williams describes the African American community of Sag Harbor, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373105">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - E.T. Williams lists members of the African American community in Sag Harbor</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373106">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - E.T. Williams remembers Brooke Astor</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373107">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - E.T. Williams talks about the real estate market in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373108">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - E.T. Williams talks about his involvement in the Museum of Modern Art</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373109">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - E.T. Williams talks about the exclusion of African American art from majority museums</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373110">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - E.T. Williams talks about outsider art</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373111">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - E.T. Williams recalls being excluded from The Baltimore Sun society pages</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373112">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - E.T. Williams describes his experiences of housing discrimination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373113">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - E.T. Williams reflects upon racial discrimination and class</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373114">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - E.T. Williams describes his involvement in social clubs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373115">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - E.T. Williams talks about his mentor, David Rockefeller</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373116">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - E.T. Williams reflects upon his real estate legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373117">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - E.T. Williams reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373118">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - E.T. Williams reflects upon his legacy in the art world</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373119">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - E.T. Williams describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373120">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - E.T. Williams narrates his photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
E.T. Williams describes his conversion of Fordham Hill in the Bronx, New York
E.T. Williams remembers acquiring Hale Woodruff's estate
Transcript
Okay picking it up the makeup of the building (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, the makeup of the buildings were approximately 70 percent white and 30 percent black, and these were pretty substantial middle income people. When Fordham Hill [Bronx, New York] was built in the '50s [1950s] they would not rent to blacks. And we knew some very upper middle class blacks and upper class blacks who wanted to move there, and they deny them entrance. So it was ironic now here we are in 1980 a black coming along and doing a conversion of this development. Well the conversion took two years, and it was the, it was the largest tenant-sponsored eviction cooperative plan in the history of the City of New York [New York]. There were nine buildings and about twelve hundred units and at the end of the conversion I took possession of 65 percent of the units and I had no partners except my mother [Elnora Bing Williams Morris] and two sisters [Joanne Williams Carter and Thea Williams Girigorie]. And Citibank [Citibank, N.A.], which lent me most of the money we had to put up between five hundred and seven hundred and fifty thousand [dollars] and Citibank lent me 7.5 million [dollars] that I needed to buy the 65 percent. The, the complex sold for about $11 billion--entire complex at the time. The owners of the complex lived in London [England] they were worried that the South Bronx [Bronx, New York] was creeping north that there were beginning to be more robberies going on. They thought they were going to have a property that they were going to have to abandon. And so they were very happy to have somebody come along and, and buy it. A lot of the older tenants were against it even though they--it was the eviction plan and they were not affected. If you was sixty-two or over you could stay on for the rest of your life. There were a number of professors from Fordham University [New York, New York] that were younger who opposed--$$Why were they opposed?$$Because they liked renting they didn't like to be forced out at the end of their lease they had to leave.$$Or buy.$$Or buy yes, those that bought were extraordinarily happy ultimately because when we really went on the open market, we begin selling them first for twice the amount then for three times then for four times. And, you know, it just went up and up, and it was it became a very successful conversion. The newspaper all picked it up, you know, The Times [The New York Times] did a couple stories on it. The Daily News [New York Daily News] did one or two stories on it. Black Enterprise there was a cover story in Black Enterprise dealing with this conversion and I was called the co-op king. I took (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well what--go ahead, you took?$$I took my family up there we lived there for about three years. And then my wife [Auldlyn Higgins Williams] said well, "You know, I came to New York to live in Manhattan not the in the Bronx" even though it was a lovely development. But, but our life was here in Manhattan, and so she was a trooper. And she came up with me, and we put two apartments together we had a lovely apartment, and we then moved back, moved back to the city. And I just stayed up there as the president of the board for a number of, of years. And it was during that time also that I got very active in, in some--a lot of nonprofits.$And then, of course, we bought Hale Woodruff's estate in the mid-'80s [1980s].$$How did that come about what made you buy it?$$Well again, we knew Ha-, Hale had died, and we had heard through a dealer called Larry Hilton [Lawrence Hilton] was out of New Jersey he was, he had heard that the estate was goning on the market. And that Bill Cosby was interested in buying the estate. And would I, would I have an interest I said well yes I knew Ted [Woodruff's wife, Theresa Baker] well, you know, I knew Ted and, and Hale. I knew Hale very well; I knew his, his wife is an acquaintance, and so I got in touch with her and through Larry Hilton. And she said yes she wants to sell Hale's estate she has a son, and she wanted to leave him enough money because he was an artist and, and basically wasn't doing anything else. And she want to be sure that he was comfortable in his life so, so while she was living she wanted to sell Hale's estate. So--but she wanted to sell it to somebody who would be giving, who would give a lot of it away. She didn't want someone to buy it who was going to keep it in their collection. As I understood at the time Bill Cosby wanted to buy it but he wanted--didn't want to guarantee that he was going to give any of it away at that particular time. But when she met with me obviously liked me, were all connected. And when she and Ted got married--when she and Hale got married they had a thousand people at their wedding in Topeka, Kansas. This was, you know, in the--I don't know the '20s [1920s] sometime. So anyway we got along famously well, and she said yes she would sell it. And I agreed to give paintings to the Studio Museum [Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, New York], to the Schomburg library [Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, New York], to Spelman College [Atlanta, Georgia], to the Brooklyn Museum [New York, New York], to the Metropolitan Museum [Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York] and just maybe three or four other institutions. So we gave more than half of the collection away. What I really ended up keeping aside from a number of oil paintings that would now travel in different museums, were some, some prints that he did. He did some Lino prints their linoleum cut prints he did them out of linoleum, and he would print them. And we gave--we were trying to decide what we were gonna do with these with these lino blocks. And a decision was made that we would have three hundred made three hundred copies of each of the eight prints, and they were from what he called his Atlanta period. And there were two scenes that were dealing in, in lynching and how rural blacks lived in the '30s [1930s] and '40s [1940s]. And they were very provocative and fascinating prints and so June Kelly the gallery owner Thurlow Tibbs [Thurlow Evans Tibbs Jr.] who was in Washington [D.C.] and Bob Blackburn [Robert Blackburn] who was a foremost black African, African American printmaker collaborated and said do three hundred sets. So Bob did the printing, and these are Pastrovic [ph.] sets, and so we did three hundred sets. Hale wanted--had been a teacher in Atlanta [Georgia] he started the Atlanta Biennial where, wherever they started black art shows in Atlanta in the '30s [1930s]. And he'd wanted his work as widely distribute as possible we that thought that this would be an opportunity. So when the prints were done, they were really beautifully done, and we started giving them to certain museums. And friends were buying them to give to museums in memory of their parents or, or cousins or aunts or whatever. And the museums all took them into their collection which meant that they were of museum quality. The Metropolitan, the Brooklyn Museum, the Carnegie Museum [Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania], the Baltimore Museum [Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland], the Whitney Museum [Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York], the Cleveland Museum [Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio], Agie Gund [Agnes Gund], who was president of Museum of Modern Art [New York, New York] of which I was on their board. Board accepted the Cleveland Museum 'cause her family was originally from Cleveland they took them to their collection. The Chenaults, Ken [Kenneth Chenault] and Kathy Chenault [Kathryn Chenault] bought forty sets to give all United Negro College Funds [sic. United Negro College Fund] schools. And all the school presidents wrote them back saying how wonderful they were. They're using them as teaching tools and displaying them in their libraries or in their museums if they have one. So it's, it's been a very successful program and, and I know Hale Woodruff would've been very, very proud that this, this was done.$$I was caught up in the story (laughter).$$I know it was, it was a great story.