“Stand Up for What is Right in Everything You Do, Big or Small”

January 12, 2024 by Daphne Moore

Martin Luther King Jr.'s membership in the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity inspired Nac Williams to join the fraternity. Alpha Phi Alpha is the oldest historically African American fraternity in the country. Photo Credit: Emily McArthur

Naccaman Williams, the foundation’s director of special projects, reflects on the impact Martin Luther King Jr. has had on his life and career

The world knows Martin Luther King Jr. as an icon of civil rights, a spiritual leader, an orator of unparalleled skill and a leader committed to service and nonviolent protest.

Naccaman ‘Nac’ Williams reveres him for all those things. But his connection to Dr. King runs deeper.

Both King and Williams, director of special projects at the Walton Family Foundation, were members of Alpha Phi Alpha. It is the nation’s oldest historically African American fraternity. King joined the fraternity in 1952, when he studied at Boston University. Alpha Phi Alpha members were King’s allies during the civil rights era and later played a critical role in building the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Inspired by King, Williams joined the fraternity while on faculty and studying for his doctorate at the University of Arkansas.

As the country celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we asked Williams to reflect on the civil rights leader’s influence on his own life and career in philanthropy.

Your fraternity is Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the country’s oldest intercollegiate historically African American fraternity. Martin Luther King Jr. had a special relationship with Alpha Phi Alpha. How did his history with the fraternity impact you, and what did you learn from it?

King was one of many who influenced me to become a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. There were others, such as Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Adam Clayton Powell and Joseph Lowery. But King had by far the most significant impact. He fought injustice. He made a difference. Alpha Phi Alpha was part of King’s life, as it is mine. I am a life member. I enjoy the brotherhood and the service to mankind.