AAO leaders extend condolences to family members and friends of Dr. Claude Williams Sr., who passed away during November 2022. Recognized as the first African American orthodontist in the southwestern United States, Dr. Williams had a private practice in Dallas, Texas. He served on the Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry orthodontic faculty and as the dental school’s diversity officer and director of minority affairs. 
Dr. Gayle Glenn of Dallas, a past president of the AAO, described Dr. Williams as “… a trailblazer for diversity and inclusion in dentistry and orthodontics. After becoming a dentist at a time when African Americans were not admitted to the American Dental Association, he joined the National Dental Association and went on to have an exemplary career as an orthodontist and educator.”

Dr. Lily T. Garcia, dean of the Texas A&M School of Dentistry, wrote in an announcement of Dr. Williams’ passing:

“It is with a heavy heart that I share that Dr. Claude R. Williams Sr., an icon of both the field of dentistry and Texas A&M University School of Dentistry, passed away recently at the age of 93. Dr. Williams spent his near century of life working in many ways to improve his community and help those around him.

“Born in Marshall, Texas, in February 1929, Dr. Williams attended Wiley College and went on to graduate from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in zoology, a Doctorate in Dental Surgery and later a certificate in orthodontics. After college, he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve, achieving the rank of captain. He was the first African American dental commanding officer and the first African American Navy dentist to earn the rank of captain. After his Navy career he moved back to Marshall and opened a dental practice.

“The inability to find a Texas orthodontist – who were all white at the time – to treat one of his children, spurred Dr. Williams to return to college to specialize in orthodontics.  After completing his training, he came back home as the first Black orthodontist in the entire Southwest and went on to have a successful Dallas orthodontic practice for more than 40 years.

“In 1973, Dr. Williams joined this school’s faculty as an assistant clinical professor in orthodontics, becoming the dental school’s first Black faculty member. Dr. Williams later became the school’s first diversity officer and was named director of minority affairs. He pioneered the school’s pipeline program for youth from underrepresented minority groups who were interested in dental careers, setting the stage for today’s robust Bridge to Dentistry programs.

“Dr. Williams was a revered mentor to many students and young professionals locally as well as nationally. He later joined the school’s marketing and communications team, assisting with external affairs. He helped form many long-lasting and vital external partnerships for the school, including support of the annual Emmett J. Conrad Leadership Program. He took his well-earned retirement in August of 2013.”

Dr. Williams’ obituary may be found here. His survivors include his son, Dr. Claude R. Williams Jr., who is a general dentist.