Dr. Gregory Williams – first Black male president of the Sunrise Rotary Club

October 15, 2020

By Kathy Gaillard
Special for the Milwaukee Times

Gregory T. Williams, a former agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and the owner of GT Private Detective Agency, was elected president in May of the Milwaukee North Sunrise Rotary Club. The Milwaukee North Sunrise Rotary Club meets every other Thursday from 7:30 a.m. -8:45 a.m. in a board room at the Bucyrus campus of the St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care located at 2450 West North Avenue. Since March, the organization has been meeting virtually.

Dr. Gregory Williams came from a long line of accomplished trailblazers. His grandfather, William Womack, was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen; his father, grandfather and uncle all earned doctorate degrees— overcoming the obstacles and challenges of their time to do so.

Williams, who completed his undergraduate studies at Tennessee State University, also earned a master’s degree and has completed his doctoral work. He is a trailblazer in his own right, becoming the first Black male president of the Milwaukee North Sunrise Rotary Club.

“My grandfather and father were both committed to civic causes. They instilled that same sense of service in me, along with the importance and responsibility of giving back. I got involved with the Rotary after receiving a contract to provide security at St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Center. Diane Beckley, the Chief Financial Officer at St. Ann Center, was involved with the Rotary (and is the current president-elect) and introduced me to it. I joined the Rotary in 2016, and after 2-1/2 years, I was elected president,” said Williams.

Rotary International is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in communities, and among themselves. For more than 110 years, Rotary members have used their passion, energy, and intelligence to take action on sustainable projects. With more than 35,000 clubs, the organization’s mission is to provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through our fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.

A native of Tennessee whose family moved to Indianapolis when he was three years old, Williams has a long and prestigious career working in other cities, including Chicago. In addition to a stint with the Martinsville, VA Police Department, the U.S. Department of Treasury, and the Naval Investigation Services—now known as Naval Criminal Investigation Services (NCIS)—after moving to Milwaukee, Williams added several other positions to his resume. He worked at the Social Development Commission under the late Don Sykes in the 1990s. He has also held administrative roles with high profile agencies including Wisconsin Community Services and Employ Milwaukee. Williams has been an adjunct professor for more than 20 years, teaching courses in criminal justice, security, and community/ social change.

These days, in addition to serving as president of the Sunrise Rotary, Williams continues to be involved in the community while operating a security agency that employs about 50 people. Williams is also one of the founding members of the Milwaukee Chapter of 100 Black Men. He coordinated the first three black college tours collaborating with others including the YMCA Black Achievers and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He is also the co-president of Tennessee State University National Alumni-Milwaukee Chapter.

“All of the civic and service projects that I’m involved with are intertwined. I am drawn to what I refer to as the ‘benevolent interest’ organizations like Rotary that support the broader community. I also got involved with Rotary because of the diversity I saw around the table. Over the years, our chapter has evolved into mostly people of color, but there is still some diversity,” he said.

Williams was also one of only a few minorities awarded a contract with the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

“As the owner of a private detective agency, I am able to hire security guards, giving people of color job opportunities. It’s important that as a minority-run business, employees are provided decent wages, training, and other incentives. The Milwaukee DNC was the perfect forum for us to showcase our capabilities,” he said.

While working full-time running a security firm, doing investigative work, and presiding over the Rotary take up much of Williams’ time, his commitment to and involvement in those initiatives he tackles never wanes.

“Thankfully, I wear my age well. I look energetic and carry myself that way. I’m humbled by the trust Rotary members put in me, and it fuels my sense of responsibility. My parents always encouraged my siblings and me to pursue education, but also to give of ourselves, grow and be cognizant of how blessed we are. My civic involvement and background are rooted in what the Rotary stands for—sharing, caring and engaging others,” said Williams.

Williams’ term as Rotary president doesn’t end until June 30, 2021, so he’s put together a comprehensive agenda to embrace youth development and build a more cohesive community for economic and social change.

“We’ve got our foot in the door, so it’s important that we bring our “A” game. We want to step forward and we can’t do that by ignoring or minimizing where we are. If Rotary can be a gateway for developing further minority vendors and businesses, let’s do it. I’m all about doing it and doing it right. There are some serious obstacles as it relates to minority business development, but at the same time we have a responsibility to be in compliance with mandates and take care of our employees. We can’t take shortcuts if we want to successfully compete for business. Rotary should be a vehicle for economic development and empowering community development interests,” he said.