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Williams, Luther, 1940-



  • Existence: August 19, 1940 -

Biographical Information

Dr. Luther Williams is a distinguished scientist, educator, and administrator whose research focused on science, mathematics, engineering and technology education, and bioethics, and advancing educational opportunities for minority students. He held both faculty and high-level administrative roles at universities across the United States, directed and advised government agencies, and served on numerous national and federal committees and councils focused on biological sciences, medical sciences, and minority education.

Luther Williams was born August 19, 1940 in Wedgeworth Alabama to Mattie Wallace Williams and Roosevelt Williams. He earned his bachelor degree in biology from Miles College (1961) and master’s from Atlanta University (1963). In 1966, he received an NIH pre-doctoral fellowship to attend Purdue University, where he earned his doctorate in microbial physiology (1968). He was an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biochemistry at the State University of New York at Stoney Brook (1968-1969).

Williams worked at Purdue University from 1970-1980, where he served as an Assistant Professor of Biology (1970-1973), Associate Professor of Biology (1974-1979), Assistant Provost (1976-80), Director of the Minority Center for Graduate Education (1977-80), and Professor of Biology (1979-80). As Assistant Provost, Williams focused on programs for Black students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty, and developed relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), in addition to other duties. In 1979, he was named to an Advisory Committee for recombinant DNA research for the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Williams also served at numerous universities across the United States where he served as faculty, dean, president, and more, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1973-1974), Washington University in St. Louis (1980-1983), University of Colorado (1983-1984), Atlanta University (1984-1987), Tulane University (1999-2001), and Tuskegee University (2006-2013). In addition to his career in higher education, Williams served in advisor, assistant director, and director roles at the National Science Foundation (1988-1999),and Missouri Botanical Gardens (2001-2005), and served on numerous councils and committees dedicated to the biological sciences, medical sciences, and minority education. Williams has been recognized throughout his career for creating opportunities for minorities in science, received honorary doctorates and awards including the Presidential Distinguished Executive Rank award (1993) and Distinguished Alumnus of the School of Science from Purdue (1997), and been inducted into the Black College Foundation Hall of Fame in 2004, among many other honors. Williams retired in 2013.

Williams is married to Constance Marion and they have two children, Mark Steward and Monique Marie, together.


Luther S. Williams, Biosketch. (2020). Collection file, Luther S. Williams papers. Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.


Luthher Williams, Biography. (2011, April 11). The History Makers. Retrieved from:

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Luther S. Williams papers

 Unprocessed — Box: 1
Identifier: 20210218

Luther S. Williams papers, addition 01

 Unprocessed — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 20210625

Luther S. Williams papers, addition 02

 Unprocessed — Box: 1
Identifier: 2022-059
Dates: Circa 1980 - 2015