JD Williams passes away

By By Clayton Norlen

By Clayton Norlen

JD Williams, a former professor in political science and director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, died Monday at 9 p.m. after complications with cancer spread to his lungs.

“He wasn’t just in the classroom as a professor,” said his widow, Barbara Williams. “He went in as his students’ friend.”

“Williams’ first passion at the U was his students,” Barbara Williams said. JD Williams taught public administration and American politics classes.

Known for being an outspoken individual both on campus and around Salt Lake City, JD Williams practiced his love for public administration both inside and outside the classroom.

He was the founding director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, serving from 1965 to 1975.

“JD was the perfect choice to lead the Hinckley Institute to maturity,” said Kirk Jowers, the current director of the Hinckley Institute. “He was beloved by students, respected by staff and well known in the community for his political activism and ideas.”

Matthew Burbank, chair of the political science department, worked as a teaching assistant for JD Williams and remembers his unpredictable and exciting teaching methods.

In Williams’ classes, assigned seating was common. He learned the names of all his students, even in lecture-style classes where more than 100 students might have been present, making learning an engaging experience for all, Burbank said.

“JD’s first love was teaching,” Burbank said. “I’d say he enjoyed it more than anything.”

After retiring from the U, JD Williams created a scholarship to assist needy and hardworking political science students. The scholarship is awarded to two students each year.

Bob Huefner, a colleague and friend of JD Williams, recalls a student’s response to a course taught by JD Williams. Huefner remembers the student’s evaluation of JD Williams: “what more can you say in crediting a professor in public administration beyond that he’d bring tears to your eyes lecturing on the good that could be achieved in public administration,”

JD Williams received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stanford University and held a doctorate in political economy and governance from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In 1952, the same year Williams received his Ph.D., he came to the U to teach. He had taught at the U for 40 years before retiring in 1992.

“The two things that JD wanted his students to learn from his classes were an excitement and love for politics alongside morality,” Huefner said.

[email protected]