Walter Williams wanted East Carolina to be successful in athletics sooner rather than later and he was more than willing to put forth his financial support to see it happen.
“I don’t know how many more five-year plans I have left,” said the amicable 1951 East Carolina graduate, then in his 70s, who shared millions of dollars generated by the Trade Oil Company and Trade Marts he established, to help upgrade athletic facilities, support Pirate Club projects and contribute to academic programs.
Williams died Monday morning at age 88 and will be missed as one who simply wanted the best for his alma mater.
His name is on Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum, the Williams-Harvey Team Buildings and the Smith-Williams Center, which houses the ECU Hall of Fame.
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Williams was inducted into the ECU hall in 2001.
Williams was raised on a tobacco farm south of Greenville. He received a master’s degree from East Carolina in 1955.
Williams and wife, Marie, were regulars at ECU athletic contests.
Williams was a loyal Pirate Club member for over 50 years. He was executive president of the group, also known as the Educational Foundation, from 1997 to 1998 and was director emeritus until his passing.
Williams served on the university’s Board of Trustees from 1995 to 1999.
“Walter’s long-time support and advocacy helped make ECU what it is today,” Chancellor Cecil Staton said. “He and Marie set a high bar for giving at ECU and are true examples of the impact that individuals can make in the success of our university. Upon arriving in Greenville, Walter became a mentor and friend to me. I was always grateful for his wise counsel.”
In recognition of their years of dedication to and support of the university, Walter and Marie Williams received the inaugural Chancellor’s Amethyst in November of 2016. The distinction celebrates a demonstrated and ongoing legacy of philanthropy to the university.
(A release from ECU media relations contributed to this report)