Frank J. Williams, CRB, CRS
Managing Director, F.J. Williams Realty
Trailblazing broker. Appraiser. Educator. Activist. Leader. Frank J. Williams, a living legend in Chicago real estate, has taken on many roles in his storied career. He was president of the Southside Chicago chapter of the NAACP from 1979 to 1985, president of the Chicago Association of REALTORS® in 1989, CAR REALTOR® of the Year in 1992, and an inductee into the CAR Hall of Fame in 2017—to name just a few.
Williams opened his real estate brokerage on the southwest side of Chicago in January 1971—and immediately met with resistance from the community. Branded a “blockbuster” for his efforts to offer Black buyers opportunities for homeownership in traditionally white neighborhoods, Williams was subjected to threats, harassment and violence. Protestors demonstrated outside his brokerage. The windows of his office were shattered by vandals. His phone lines were jammed with harassing phone calls. One night, his family home in Beverly, Ill., was firebombed.
But Williams was determined to fight for equal access to the housing market for people of color. He worked tirelessly to desegregate neighborhoods, helping countless families build generational wealth.
At the same time, Williams has been a fierce advocate for fair housing legislation on the state and local level, fighting For Sale sign bans, antisolicitation laws, restrictive covenants and predatory lending. In 2021, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a resolution commending Williams “for his lifetime of diligent work for equal rights for homeowners.”
For Williams, fair housing isn’t just about integrating neighborhoods; it’s also about integrating the industry. After joining the association in 1971, he threw himself into volunteer leadership—including serving on NAR committees for nearly a decade. Many times, he was the only person of color in the room, he says. Beginning in 1974, he made time to champion fair housing education, mentoring and educating hundreds of real estate agents through the Chicago association’s real estate school.
“I haven’t developed and built skyscrapers, but I’ve brought diversity and would like to think that’s the biggest contribution I’ve made,” he told colleagues during his induction into the CAR Hall of Fame. “I got to be a face for many of the communities that were denied opportunities in the real estate industry.”
Williams continues his crusade as a broker, educator and leader today. His current fair housing cause relates to one of his other industry roles: appraiser. Williams is working with Illinois House Rep. Mary Flowers on an amendment to the Real Estate License Act of 2000 and the Real Estate Appraiser Licensing Act of 2002. The amendment seeks to prohibit discrimination by brokers and appraisers when they are preparing a broker price opinion or a comparative market analysis for residential real estate.
“We must remember that prejudice, bias, segregation, denial of opportunities has not been a one-man show,” says Williams. “It came from the top down. All we want is opportunity and a level start.”