By Jared D. Childress | OBSERVER Staff Writer

Clarence Williams
Clarence Williams

Clarence Williams dedicated his life to the economic equity of Black folks and his work will continue to bear fruit for years to come. 

The nationally recognized leader in financial services and small business development passed away May 8 at the age of 75. His loved ones describe him as a kind, generous man steadfastly devoted to his faith, his family and his friends.

Williams held a bachelor’s degree from Sacramento State in economics and was a founding member of the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce, serving as president from 1996 to 1998. He served as president/CEO of California Capital Financial Development Corporation from 1982 until he retired in 2019. He was an active member and steward of the Allen Chapel AME church for 50 years.

The absence of generational wealth in the Black community is well documented, but Williams was about the solution. He worked to change the criteria and underwriting process for small business loans so Blacks would have access to capital.

Deborah Lowe Muramoto, Williams’ longtime friend and current president of California Capital Financial Development Corporation, said his mission was to promote both racial and economic equity and justice.

“All I can say is that it was in his blood,” Muramoto said. She added that as a Black man from the Midwest, he’d faced his fair share of discrimination so “equality was always something that he never stopped advocating and fighting for.”

Williams was born in Steubenville, Ohio, on Oct. 18, 1947, to Clarence Williams Sr. and Anna Williams. In a 2003 interview with The OBSERVER, Williams described his hometown as “steel country” where he “knew at an early age” that working in the industrial factories wasn’t for him.

“We had few Black role models – one Black doctor, one Black attorney,” Williams said. “I looked up to people who worked in the business sector. I wanted to find out where the door to business would lead.”

He moved to California to attend college. Though 2,000 miles away from home, he stayed close to his roots, said Azizza Davis-Goines, his longtime friend who also has family in Ohio.

“He enjoyed going back to Ohio to be with his family,” Davis-Goines said. “He was very close to his mom, cousins, and extended family. We talked about home a lot.”

Davis-Goines is the current president/CEO of the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce. She met Williams in 1991 at an event. In that first meeting he asked her to join the chamber.

Both Davis-Goines and Muramoto describe Williams as supportive of others. 

“He was not one to talk about himself a lot,” said Muramoto, who has known Williams since they were in their 20s. “But he was always quick to acknowledge the accomplishments of those around him.”

The humble man had many accomplishments. He served on several statewide boards and nonprofits, including the California Reinvestment Coalition. Nationwide, he worked with the National Community Capital Association, now called Opportunity Finance Network.

“Just to be clear: Clarence made his mark,” Muramoto said. “Not just in his neighborhood, or just locally, but also statewide and nationally.”

Williams is survived by his loving cousins Pat and Richard Marshall, Anita Allen, Kavetta and Keith Freese, and Wallace Nall. He will be sorely missed by his Mansfield, Ohio, family, Michael Walker, Mary Alice Williams and their families. Williams leaves behind many family and friends including his life partner, Jananne Sharpless, and longtime friends, Billy Rutland, Stephen Williams and Muramoto.

In memory of Williams, donations can be made to Allen Chapel AME Church, the Sacramento Region Community Foundation or California Capital FDC-Clarence Williams Community Benefit Legacy Fund.