Local leader, philanthropist and activist Leon L. Williams celebrated his 100th birthday on Saturday, July 30. Celebrated by the County of San Diego with a Life Achievement Award, several local politicians  celebrated the centenarian and acknowledged his work on behalf of the San Diego region, especially for Black San Diegans in Southeast San Diego, the region he represented as an elected official.

Paying Close Attention

“Just pay close attention to who you are, who other people are,” Williams said in acknowledgement of his Life Achievement Award. “[Pay close attention to] how much you can help other people and how much you can appreciate being helped when you need it.”

Leon Williams

Williams, the first African American San Diego City Council member and San Diego County Supervisor, also served as the first Black member of the San Diego Foundation Board of Governors. Williams is widely acknowledged for a public career of advancement and opening doors for other local Black elected officials. In 2020, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors established the Leon L. Williams San Diego County Human Relations Commission “to promote positive human relations, respect, and the integrity of every individual regardless of gender, religion, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or citizenship status.”

Particularly poignant is that Williams’ birthday – July 30 – immediately precedes Black Philanthropy Month, an annual global celebration and concerted campaign to elevate African-descent giving and funding equity that takes place each August.

Building a Scholarship Legacy

Leon Williams

In 1999, Williams established a scholarship fund at San Diego Foundation to support local Black students who attend a four-year university and pursue a career in health or healthcare, with a demonstrated commitment to improving health in the San Diego community. Because his fund is an endowment, Williams will continue to improve the lives of others – forever.

Since 2000, 35 students have been awarded a total of $40,250 from the Leon and Margaret Williams Scholarship fund. The scholarship honors Williams and his wife, Margaret, a life-long educator.

Learn more about the Community Scholarship Program and how to start a Scholarship Fund.