Overview of the Collection
Arrangement of Materials:
Scope and Contents
Overview of the Collection
Collection Title: Leon Williams Papers
Physical Description: 56.87 linear ft
Language of Materials:
Special Collections & University Archives
5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego, CA, 92182-8050
This collection was processed as part of the San Diego African American Archives Project, made possible by a grant from the
President's Leadership Fund.
Leon Williams was born in Oklahoma, but moved to Bakersfield, California during the Great Depression. He received a BA in
psychology from San Diego State College in 1950. He also studied law and public policy. After graduating, he worked as a
social worker in the San Diego Sheriff's Department. Later, Williams worked for the Urban League, a movement dedicated to
"empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream," and became the director for the Neighborhood Youth
Corps Program, which helped underprivileged youth in San Diego by offering job placement services and educational opportunities.
Williams was also active on the Citizens Interracial Committee (CIC), which worked to combat racism and alleviate racial tension
specific to San Diego neighborhoods.
In 1969, Williams became the first African American elected to the San Diego City Council as a representative for District
IV. He later became county supervisor in 1982. As County Supervisor, Williams was president of the California State Association
of Counties in 1993, and he was on the board of directors for the National Association of Counties. Both these associations
serve to represent county governments before the state and federal legislatures.
During Williams' years in the City Council, he helped initiate the Southeast Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) and the
Regional Growth and Planning Review Task Force to promote land use programs in order to revitalize and sustain low to moderate
income communities. Land use advocates, city planners, and environmentalists comprised the Growth Task Force. He similarly
co-chaired the City-County Reinvestment Task Force to encourage financial institutions to reinvest in these dilapidated neighborhoods.
Williams also established the Martin Luther King Park, and endorsed the downtown redevelopment project.
In addition to (re)development projects, Williams created the Human Relations Commission and the Hate Crimes Registry to tackle
racial and religious tensions. He fought for state constitutional reform as a member of the California Constitutional Revision
Committee, and helped change the county charter to increase government accountability. Williams' Prevention Policy sought
to create long-term solutions for issues such as crime, drugs, welfare, and health concerns. He was a proponent of needle
exchange programs to help fight against AIDS, and was a supporter of the anti-smoking ordinance. During this time, Williams
also taught public policy classes part-time at San Diego State University.
Although Williams worked as a councilman, he was also active with the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB). In 1976,
he began his long tenure with the MTDB, and in 1994 was appointed chairman of the Transit System's board of directors. Williams
had always supported the use of public transportation as a means to connect and revitalize San Diego's older neighborhoods,
rather than expand into undeveloped areas. He believed the creation of the San Diego Trolley was the best way to achieve
this goal. He was also the chairman of the Services Authority for Freeway Emergencies (SAFE), and was responsible for freeway
He retired from City Council in 1995, and the MTDB in 2005. Leon Williams is married to Margaret Williams. They have a daughter
This collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Genre/Form of Material:
San Diego (Calif.) -- History -- Sources
San Diego (Calif.) -- Race relations -- History -- Sources
Williams, Leon -- Archives
African American civic leaders
African American civic leaders -- California -- San Diego -- Biography -- Sources
African American neighborhoods -- California -- San Diego -- History -- Sources
African American political activists -- California -- San Diego -- Biography -- Sources
African American social reformers -- California -- San Diego -- Biography -- Sources
African Americans -- California -- San Diego
San Diego Trolley -- History -- Sources
March 3, 2006
Conditions Governing Use:
The copyright interests in these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with
the creators of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of historical archival and manuscript collections
is such that copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. Requests for permission to publish must be
submitted to the Head of Special Collections, San Diego State University, Library and Information Access. When granted, permission
is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission
of the copyright holder(s), which must also be obtained in order to publish. Materials from our collections are made available
for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including
but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials.
Conditions Governing Access:
This collection is open for research.
Identification of item, folder title, box number, Leon Williams Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Library
and Information Access, San Diego State University.
Alpha Pi Boulé Records
Reverend George Walker Smith Papers
Carlin Integration Case Records
Citizen Coordinate for Century 3 Records
Harold K. Brown Papers, 1956-2000
Arrangement of Materials:
I. Campaign Files, 1969-1994
II. Conference Files, 1974-2000
III. Professional Files, 1966-2003
1. Urban League, 1964-1975
2. California Constitutional Revision Committee, 1974-1995
a. General Files, 1975-1995
b. Meeting Files, 1993-1995
3. District IV, 1966-2003
a. Chief-of-Staff Files, 1970-2000
i. General Files, 1970-2000
ii. Subject Files, 1978-1994
b. General files, 1966-2003
4. Metropolitan Transportation Development Corporation, 1986-2006
a. General Files, 1986-2006
b. Reports, 1987-1998
IV. Personal Files, 1961-2006
V. News Clippings, 1969-2002
Scope and Contents
Leon Williams Papers document three decades of William's public service career, and includes news clippings, photos, correspondence, invitations,
public appearance forms, public opinions, campaign information, reports, ordinances, plaques, certificates of achievement,
various committee files, and conference minutes. During his time on city council, Williams advocated land use programs, revitalization
of older neighborhoods, and the use of public transportation. The majority of the material dates from about 1970 to the late
1990's, and highlights these aspects of Williams' career. The collection is divided into five series:
Campaign Files (1969-1994),
Conference Files (1974-2000),
Professional Files (1966-2003),
Personal Files (1961-2006), and
News Clippings (1969-2002).
Campaign Files (1969-1994) document Williams various campaigns, and includes pamphlets, correspondence (including congratulation messages),
volunteers, topics, district maps, and voter data. The files are arranged chronologically by campaign years, followed by
alphabetical general files that contain voter information and election topics. Williams' later campaigns (late 1980's, early
1990's) are poorly documented.
Conference Files (1974-2000) document the various conferences Williams participated in. These files include meeting minutes, topics discussed
at the conferences, notes, and conference handouts. The best documented conferences include CSAC and NACO conferences, but
in general the Conference files are fairly small and superficial.
Professional Files (1966-2003) document Williams' career in public service. This series is divided into four chronological sub-series, the
Urban League Files, the
District IV Files, which make up the bulk of this series, the
MTDB Files, and the
California Constitutional Revision Committee Files. The
Urban League sub-series document the early part of Williams' public service career and is organized alphabetically. The sub-series includes
correspondence, police reports, Citizen Interracial Committee, and project files. Although these files are sparse in number,
they provide insight into how William's began his public career. They also serve to highlight particular events and issues
in the San Diego African American community during the late 1960's, such as the Morse High School student arrests. The
District IV Files provide extensive documentation of Williams' career on the City Council. These files are divided into
Chief-of-Staff Files and
General Files. The
Chief-of-Staff Files were the records of Williams' Chief-of-Staff, Don Abel, and are arranged into two alphabetical sub sub-series:
General Files and
Subject Files. The
General Files sub-series is likewise organized by alphabetical subjects. Both the
Chief of Staff Files and the
General Files often overlap one another and detail various community projects, correspondence, committees, public opinion cards and ordinances.
For example, the SAFE committee, Human Relations Commission, Southeast Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), growth management,
airport issues, Blacks Beach, AIDS, and CSAC, are some of the main subjects covered by the District IV files. The public
opinion cards give wonderful examples of what San Diegans thought about major San Diego issues, such as, the Claremont hospital
and expanding the central library. In contrast, the
MTDB Files document major transportation decisions, correspondence, maps, and reports that mainly relate to the San Diego Trolley and
its eastward expansion. These files date from 1989 to 2004 and are organized alphabetically into two sub sub-series:
General Files and
General Files contain correspondence, plans, news clippings, and subject files. The
Reports consist of reports regarding environmental impact, transportation needs, and specific trolley stations. There is limited
documentation of San Diego State University's trolley station specifically, but good documentation of the Mission Valley extension
line in general. The
California Constitutional Revision Committee Files, on the other hand, document all its major conferences, and the topics discussed at those conferences, including possible
amendments. These files include, conference materials and handouts, agendas, subject files, possible amendments and revisions,
and meeting minutes. These files are divided into alphabetical
General Files and chronological
Personal Files (1961-2006) mainly document events, topics of interests, and involvement in organizations not specific to Williams' professional
career and is organized alphabetically. The series contains photos; correspondence; invitations to community events, private
gatherings, and state and federal conferences; public appearance forms; topics of interest; certificates of achievement; award
plaques, and non-governmental organizations that Williams participated in. There is extensive documentation of Williams'
invitations, public appearances, and achievements, especially during the early 1990's.
News Clippings (1969-2002) provide excellent documentation of events and projects Williams, the MTDB, and the City Council were involved
with. There are also clippings regarding Williams' personal achievements, and issues that Williams' was specifically interested
in, such as AIDS. There are, however, very few articles from the late 1960's. The majority of the news clippings are from
the mid 1970's to the early 1990's, although there are some clippings from the early 21st century and the early 1970's.
These files are organized chronologically.