SDNY’s first black US attorney Damien Williams

In its long history, Southern District alumnus has served on the Supreme Court as the US Attorney General, Secretary of War and Homeland Security, FBI Director, Police Commissioner, Manhattan District Attorney, and New York City Mayor (Mr. Giuliani). Another, who served in the 1880s, later won the Nobel Peace Prize.

But the office has never been headed by a black man.

“It’s not like Damien is going to be a Black US Attorney,” said Martin S. Bell, a former Southern District prosecutor who is also Black. “He is also someone who offers an increased capacity for thoughtfulness and creativity when it comes to the big questions relating to criminal justice – and the office’s ability to be credible to a rich, vast and diverse constituency of New Yorkers. “

Mr Williams was born in Brooklyn, but raised in the Atlanta area, where his family moved as a child. His parents, Jamaican immigrants in the early 1970s, met as students at Howard University in Washington, where his father studied medicine and his mother’s nursing.

He attended Woodward Academy, a private day school, excelled in academics and served as student body president throughout his senior high school year.

At Harvard, Mr. Williams majored in economics; At the University of Cambridge, he obtained a master’s degree in international relations.

He joined the Kerry campaign in August 2003, having previously worked in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and later in South Carolina. In the spring of 2004, with law school months away, he was hired by then-Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, as his “body man”—his driver, executive assistant, and one of his closest associates. .

“I threw a lot at him,” said Mr. McAuliffe. “Never rattle, always smiling, solid as a rock.”

But late that July, Mr Williams was shattered when his older sister, 25-year-old Tiffany Simone Williams, to whom he was devoted, died suddenly from a root canal infection in Atlanta.

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