Justice Milton L. Williams was born in Augusta, Georgia on November 14, 1932. His family moved to New York City when he was very young. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School (Class of 1951), where he lettered in football. After high school, he served in the Navy as a Radioman 2nd Class Petty Officer and was honorably discharged in 1955. He joined the New York City Police Department in 1957 and, while employed there full time, attended college (New York University Class of 1960) and law school (New York Law School Class of 1963). Upon law school graduation, he began his legal career at Allstate Insurance Company, as their first black staff attorney.
Justice Williams enjoyed a long and diverse career in public service. Aside from his 15-year tenure at the Appellate Division, First Department, where he served as Presiding Justice (2002) and Associate Justice (1993-2002; 2003-2008), his judicial career included service as Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the New York City Courts from 1985-1993; as Administrative Judge of the Supreme Court, Criminal Term, New York County from 1983-1985; and as Supervising Judge of the New York County Criminal Court from 1978-1983. He was appointed to the New York City Criminal Court in 1977, appointed an Acting Supreme Court Justice in 1978, and elected to the Supreme Court of the State of New York in 1984.
Prior to his judicial career, Justice Williams’s public service career included positions as Executive Director of the New York State Special Commission on Attica (McKay Commission); Associate General Counsel for the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption and the City’s Anti-Corrupt Procedures (Knapp Commission); Special Prosecutor for the New York City Civil Service Commission; General Counsel and Director of Hunts Point Legal Services; and U.S. Small Business Administration Regional Counsel for the State of New Jersey.
Justice Williams has received numerous honors and awards including: Honorary Doctorates of Laws from New York Law School, St. John’s University and Long Island University; The Guild of Catholic Lawyers’ Charles Carroll Award; the New York State Trial Lawyers’ Association’s Harlan Fiske Stone Award; the New York County Lawyers’ Association’s Humanitarian Award; the Bronx Black Bar Association’s Outstanding Achievement Award; the New York County Lawyers’ Association’s Louis J. Capozzoli Gavel Award; the Jewish Lawyers Guild’s Golda Meir Award; the Metropolitan Black Bar Association Award; the Macon B. Allen Bar Association Award; The Catholic Interracial Council of New York’s John LaFarge Memorial Award for Interracial Justice; the Guardians Association Gold & Silver Award; and the Washington Irving High School Student Appreciation Award.
Justice Williams’s affiliations have been numerous and have reflected his many interests and concerns. His professional affiliations have included the Board of Trustees of New York Law School and several bar associations, including the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the Harlem Lawyers (President) and the Guild of Catholic Lawyers. Other affiliations include/have included the Board of Trustees of St. John’s University; the American Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta; the Board of Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral; the Board of Trustees of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund; the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships; and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Zeta Boule.
Justice Williams resides in New York City with his wife, Rose.