Roy Levy Williams, influential aide to three Michigan governors and Mayor Young, dies

by Rick Blalock

Roy Levy Willimas, the man who “married Coleman Young and William Milliken” was a political influencer in Detroit and Lansing   for more than 50 years.

Roy Levy Williams held unparalleled political influence in Michigan and the state’s largest city across three gubernatorial administrations and the tenure of Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young. He died peacefully in his home in Grosse Pointe Woods, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.

In a statement his family said:

      “We honor the work that Roy Levy did for so many across the state of Michigan and especially for the people of Detroit.

     From his days working as a top aide to Gov. William Milliken, to Govs. James Blanchard and John Engler, to his leadership as president and CEO of the Detroit Urban League, to his tenure as a member of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, he always kept the betterment of people at the forefront of his thinking and his work.

     We will miss him dearly, but we know that his legacy will remain intact as a model for future leaders of our city and state to advance the cause of peace, justice, freedom and equality—ideals Roy Levy fought for every day he was with us.”

Williams was most recently recognized as a “Distinguished Warrior” in 2016 by the Urban League for his long record of public service, an award he established while he was president of the Detroit Urban league.

In addition to his work for the state and the city, Williams spent 18 years as an executive at Chrysler Corporation, overseeing community relations before retiring and opening his own management consulting firm.

Of all his “under-the-radar” work, Williams is best known for his getting Republican Gov. William Milliken, Michigan’s longest-serving governor, to work with Mayor Coleman A. Young, a Democrat who detested Republicans. It was Williams who “married the odd couple” as people in circles of power jokingly said. After a rocky start, as the official liaison between the two, the Milliken-Young relationship grew into a bromance and Detroit gained considerably more benefits from Lansing as a result.

In 1978, Williams was designated by The Detroit News as “One of the 47 Individuals Who Make Things Happen,” and worked with both the mayor and governor until an “Equity Package” was created to give additional funds to Detroit from the state.

Roy Levy Williams also served on Detroit’s planning commission and was a national board member of the NAACP. A member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.,  since 1958, he graduated from Wayne State University with an undergraduate degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Urban Planning.

He died peacefully, with his wife and two adult children at his bedside. He was 83.

Williams will be laid to rest in historic Elmwood Cemetery, which is the resting place of the pantheon of Michigan and Detroit luminaries including, John R. Williams, Detroit’s first mayor and namesake of John R street and Coleman A. Young, the city’s first Black mayor as well as several governors, senators and statesmen.

For news and media inquiries, please contact Rick Blalock, of SNAG Enterprises at rick@snagenterprises.com or at (678) 516-8281.

 

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