Great Living Cincinnatians
John P. Williams, Jr.
Awarded in 2017
John P. Williams, Jr. took a three year leave from his law practice to run the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce in 1984. His love for the region saw Mr. Williams leave Taft, Stettinius & Hollister and remain at the Chamber for 17 years. One of his proudest Chamber undertakings was working collaboratively behind-the-scenes, bringing people together, to develop broad civic support for a sales tax levy that would keep Cincinnati as a Major League community by building Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park, and creating a beautiful new riverfront in the process. “Cincinnati is a big little city,” said Williams. “Big enough to have big city amenities and small enough that people work together to address our challenges, get things done and make a difference.”
Born in Cincinnati, Mr. Williams spent his early years in Dayton, Ohio. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University (1963) and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Cincinnati College of Law (1966). Upon graduating from UC Law, he joined Taft as an associate. The following year, he began active duty with the United States Marine Corps, principally as an infantry officer, commanding a rifle company in Vietnam and receiving a Bronze Star with Combat “V” and two Purple Hearts. Mr. Williams carried a Theodore Roosevelt quote with him in Vietnam. It read, “For those who fight for it, life has a special meaning the protected never know.”
Returning from Vietnam, Mr. Williams commanded a Replacement Company and was then the Aide de Camp to the Commanding General, Camp Pendleton, California. Following separation from the Marines in 1970, he traveled around the world for eighteen months. Mr. Williams returned to Cincinnati and recommenced his law practice with Taft in the areas of general corporate, securities, and mergers and acquisitions. He was named a partner in 1977.
From 1984 until 2001, Mr. Williams served as president and CEO of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. Major accomplishments during his tenure include increasing the Chamber’s membership by 123%, being named “Chamber of the Year” twice (1993 and 1997); and increasing revenues by more than 400%. His main focus was economic growth of Greater Cincinnati and regional collaboration with other chambers and public and private sector organizations.
When Mr. Williams retired from the Chamber in 2001, he and his wife, Francie, settled down, “right where we are,” in Northern Kentucky. They traveled the world by plane, train, automobile, motorcycle and a 25 foot Airstream trailer, but Williams added that Greater Cincinnati is, “where Francie and I call home and where we always return with joy.”
Mr. Williams is currently a member of the CRBC (Cincinnati Regional Business Committee) and serves on the boards of Fortis Security Products, St. Elizabeth Medical Center Foundation and the UC College of Law’s Board of Visitors. He received the Lincoln Award from Northern Kentucky University, the Life Member Award from the American Chamber of Commerce Executives and holds honorary degrees from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and The College of Mount Saint Joseph.
He volunteers at the Cincinnati VA. “Taking care of veterans, especially those who have been in active combat, means a great deal to me,” said Williams. “I believe in the VA and the special role it occupies.”
Additionally, Mr. Williams has been a member of the Queen City Angels, a venture capital investment group and mentored several young professionals in Greater Cincinnati. Williams offered his advice, “to be of high integrity and trust, care about our community more than one’s self or organization, build personal relationships throughout the community, work hard, be supportive, behave professionally and respectfully, and always speak in the first person plural – we not I.”