Award Profile: Melvin L. Williams ’85

Melvin L. Williams ’85

2022 Beech Outstanding Alumni Award

If you’re looking for someone with a genuine compassion for others, you need look no further than Melvin L. Williams Jr. ’85.

Affectionately called “Skeet” by relatives and friends, Williams for decades has made a difference in many people’s lives, particularly youth.

A former defensive tackle on UNC’s football team — he proudly wore no. 94 — Williams has had his hand in several enterprises since leaving UNC with a degree in radio, television, broadcasting and motion pictures. Yet he’s most widely known for PROUD Fathers, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to nurturing young Black males who he says are far too often “shadowed by darkness.” PROUD is an acronym for protector, resourceful, ongoing, understanding and dedicated.

The PROUD Fathers initiative began in 2013 as a means of providing resources to help fathers develop positive and productive relationships with their children. Through the PROUD Fathers initiative, Williams has worked with countless youth, serving as a volunteer coach at the high school and collegiate levels.

Then-President Barack Obama cited Williams’ work in 2014, when Williams was bestowed the Champions of Change award, which recognizes people who are doing extraordinary things to make a difference in their communities.

“Melvin clearly has a heart for people, particularly for those who are underserved,” said Asa Bell Jr., ’87 (’91 MBA, JD) who has known Williams for about 16 years and is senior pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Wendell, where Williams is an associate pastor. “His nonprofit, PROUD Fathers, has been very productive in that his ministry has been geared toward that…”

James Knight, a member of the PROUD Fathers Board of Directors, in a letter of recommendation heralded Williams, who was nominated for the Harvey Beech Overall Achievement award by Camille Roddy ’87. “Not only has he touched the lives of young teenage boys and college-aged men of all colors, nationalities and origins from a local level, but he has reached them on a statewide level,” Knight wrote.

Roddy has worked with Williams professionally and with the Black Alumni Reunion.

“Melvin embodies servant leadership, which is the essence of the Harvey Beech Award,” Roddy said. “The purpose is to honor alumni who see leadership as an opportunity to serve and be of service to others, and Melvin demonstrates that time and time again.”

PROUD Fathers sponsors an annual golf tournament to raise money for scholarships for high school seniors. At the tournament, golfers receive information about prostate cancer, which disproportionately affects African Americans. Initially the tournament netted enough money for two scholarships, a number that’s grown to 10. Williams takes pride in the fact that the scholarships are for students who don’t necessarily have stellar grades but who possess a strong desire to graduate from college and better themselves.

Larry Griffin ’86, a former teammate of Williams, said Williams worked as hard in school as he does now. “Whether on the field, in the weight room, or on the track, Melvin gave 110 percent,” Griffin said. “The hard work didn’t convert to much playing time on Saturdays, but it paid off in the long run and taught him what dedication and commitment really mean.”

Williams, a Rocky Mount native, has served in state government for 34 years. He has a master’s degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, and he and his wife, Priscilla, live in Raleigh and have one daughter, Mollie.

A GAA life member, Williams has participated in the Black Alumni Reunion for more than 20 years, serving as reunion chair in 2005. “When I return to Chapel Hill to support the BAR and the GAA, I don’t relive my football days. Instead, I draw from the collective light of fellow BAR-heels to reinvigorate, energize and strengthen what began on this campus many years ago — a commitment to serve and to be of service to others.”

Williams said he’ll always cherish talking with Beech some years ago as they swapped stories about their Carolina experience. He’s honored to receive an award in Beech’s name and unequivocally credits his success to his parents, Melvin and Dorothy Williams, and his paternal grandparents, David and Ruth Williams, saying, “I am who I am because of these four people.”