Obituary: L. Neil Williams, Atlanta arts advocate, former League board chair, 76

Posted on: August 30, 2012

The League of American Orchestras notes with great sadness the passing of Neil Williams, a longtime champion of the arts and the League. He served on the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for many years and was chairman from 1987-1990. From 2002-2008 he served as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Woodruff Arts Center, which awarded him its first Lifetime Achievement Award on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. During the 1990s he was an active member of the League’s Board of Directors and served with distinction as board chair for five years. The League sends its deepest condolences to his wife, Sue, to his family, and to his many friends and colleagues.

In Wednesday’s (8/28) Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Georgia), Michelle E. Shaw writes, “For more than 50 years, attorney and arts supporter Neil Williams dedicated himself to countless causes across metro Atlanta and in his home state of North Carolina. … L. Neil Williams died suddenly Sunday of a heart attack while in Winston-Salem, N.C. … In the land of Georgia Bulldogs, Mr. Williams was a proud Duke Blue Devil, having received his undergraduate degree in history and his law degree from Duke University. … In January 2011, he became the chair of the Duke Endowment, the Charlotte-based philanthropy connected to Duke. At the time of his death Mr. Williams was also on the board of directors of Printpack Inc., Acuity Brands Inc. and Invesco Mortgage Capital Inc. The Charlotte native was a former managing partner at the Atlanta law offices of Alston & Bird and was credited with growing the firm. … He remained at the firm until 1999, when he went to Invesco, where he served as general counsel and later as the chairman of the board of directors. While still at Alston & Bird, Mr. Williams served as chairman of the American Symphony Orchestra League and the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s Arts and Business Council, and as president of the Atlanta Symphony. In 2001 he was elected to lead the Woodruff Arts Center’s board of trustees. An instrumentalist and vocalist, Mr. Williams’ support of the arts was no accident, his son said. “He was a musician by training,” Fred Williams said of his father. “And though he chose law as a career, he was still very connected to music and higher education, which he felt very strongly about.” In addition to his son, Mr. Williams is survived by his wife of 54 years, Sue Williams; daughter, Susan Williams of Columbus, Ohio; and two grandchildren.

Posted August 30, 2012