Our dear friend, Emory Williams 32C
Named one of Emory’s 175 Makers of History for his dedication and unwavering love for Emory University, Emory Williams 32C passed away at the age of 102. Here, we share his obituary with his Emory family. He shall be missed.
Feb 11 2014 Emory Williams, a Chicago businessman and civic leader, died in Hobe Sound, Florida on February 11.
He was 102.
Mr. Williams, who maintained extraordinary mental acuity and appetite for work until the end of his life, had a career that spanned the 20th century.
He took a job at Sears Roebuck as a warehouse clerk in Atlanta in 1933, the depth of the Great Depression.
Forty years later he was Treasurer and CFO of Sears, by then housed in the new Sears Tower.
He “retired” from the company in 1975, but started work the next day as Chairman and CEO of the Sears Bank.
Following his second retirement in 1981 he became Chairman of Chicago Milwaukee Corp, from which he retired in 1986.
He was a director of eight New York Stock Exchange listed companies.
His forty-year association with Sears coincided with the retailer’s era of market dominance.
He saw mass consumerism in America roar to life, shifting from mail-order catalogs to suburban shopping malls – many of which he built for Sears.
He travelled and lived abroad for significant periods.
During World War II he was a lieutenant colonel under the command of Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander for Southeast Asia.
He lived for three years on the grounds of a maharaja’s palace in New Delhi, facilitating Allied supply chains to Burma and China.
From Sao Paolo, he ran Sears’s Brazilian operations in the late 1950s.
When he was over 80, he and his son Emory Williams launched a series of manufacturing businesses in China.
He celebrated his 95th and 100th birthdays in Beijing, noting his love of a culture that venerates longevity.
Mr. Williams’ energy and generosity left a mark on the civic life of Chicago.
He served as President of the Ravinia Festival Association, Chairman of the Chicago Metropolitan Crusade of Mercy (now United Way), President of the Adler Planetarium, Chairman of the Chicago Chamber Musicians, and President of the Chicago Community Trust.
He was a Life Trustee of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
He was a life trustee of Emory University, his alma mater, where he established the first Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award.
From officers’ messes in Ceylon to fundraising committees in Chicago he charmed any circle he entered.
For family and friends alike, he projected the force of authority with a voice of kindness, respect and wit.
He is survived by Janet Allcorn Williams, his wife of 71 years, as well as five children: Nelle Temple Brown, Bliss Browne and Carol Schroeder all of Hobe Sound, Florida; Janet Harrison of Dallas, Texas and Emory Williams of Beijing, China; 15 grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
He raised his family in Winnetka, where he was a member of Christ Church.
He passed away peacefully with all of his children surrounding him.
A full, well-lived life ended with no ailment other than extreme age.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to the Emory University Voluntary Core Curriculum Program, an undergraduate classics course he championed (Voluntary Core Curriculum Program, Office of Gift Records, Emory University, 1762 Clifton Road NE, Suite 1400, Atlanta, Georgia 30322); or to a charity of your choice.
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