NEWARK, Del. -- Leonard L. “Lenny” Williams, the first African-American football player in University of Delaware history who went on to serve as a Delaware civil rights pioneer and a distinguished municipal court judge, passed away on March 2 after a brief illness.

A true pioneer throughout his lifetime, the University of Delaware was proud to recognize Williams (at right) as the Honorary Captain for the Towson at Delaware football game back on Nov. 3, 2012 at Delaware Stadium.

The Honorary Captain program honors friends of Blue Hen football who continue to make outstanding contributions to the UD program. As part of the program, Williams took part in the pre-game coin toss at midfield.

A native of Wilmington, Del. and a graduate of Howard High School, Williams enrolled at the University of Delaware two years after the 1950 Parker
vs. University of Delaware decision that desegregated the University.

He became the first African-American to compete for the Blue Hen football squad and was a three-year letterwinner in 1953-55, starting as a senior and helping lead the team to an impressive three-year mark of 23-4.

Williams played both the center and linebacker positions and competed in the classroom as fiercely as he did on the gridiron. Under the leadership of
head coach David Nelson, Williams’ teammates embraced diversity and united as a team to win football games.

His discipline and competitiveness helped him to achieve Dean’s List status, an accomplishment that would propel him towards his goal of becoming a lawyer.

After receiving a bachelor of arts degree in English, history and political science, Williams attended Georgetown University Law School, graduating in June 1959 and passing bar exams in both the District of Columbia and Delaware in December of that same year.

He later practiced law in Wilmington with famed Civil Rights attorney Louis L. Redding, Esq. Lenny worked with Redding on landmark civil rights cases that abolished segregation in education, housing, employment, and public accommodations in the State of Delaware.

In addition to practicing law for 50 years, he served as a Municipal Court Judge for 35 years in the City of Wilmington before retiring from the bench.

Williams was the proud father of his three children: Leonard, Jr. (Bucky), Dena, and Garrett. He resided in Wilmington with his wife, Andrea.

A memorial service is being held today, March 8, in Wilmington. Contributions may be made in memory of The Honorable Leonard L. Williams to The Delaware Community Foundation, 100 W 10th Street Suite 115, Wilmington, Delaware 19801.