Over 50 Years of Fighting for Housing Equality

Chicago REALTOR® Frank Williams Honored With the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Fair Housing Champion Award

Past President Frank Williams, F.J. Williams Realty, was honored as one of NAR’s 2023 Fair Housing Champion Award winners during Fair Housing Month in April.

The Fair Housing Champion Award honors REALTORS® who have gone above and beyond to advance fair housing and expand homeownership in underserved communities.

In the 50-plus years Frank Williams has served the real estate industry, he has become the trailblazing face of diversity and fair housing in Chicago. Facing verbal and physical attacks on his business and his family – so severe, his home was firebombed – his persistence ensured freedoms many of us enjoy today by fighting ‘for sale’ sign bans, anti-solicitation laws, restrictive covenants, industry
integration, the Predatory Lending Database Pilot Program (HB 4050) and many other roadblocks.

Williams entered the industry in 1971, just eight years after black real estate agents were allowed to join the Chicago REALTORS® and three short years following the height of the civil rights movement. Williams’ mission has always been to ensure the American dream of homeownership was attainable to everyone, regardless of the color of their skin.

Upon opening his own brokerage, F.J. Williams Realty, in his Beverly neighborhood, the fight over fair housing rights came right to Frank Williams’ front door. Accused of being a “blockbuster,” the community did not take kindly to Williams assisting buyers in the neighborhood. Protesters gathered regularly outside of his office and vandalized both his office and his home. As vandalism and attacks escalated, a bomb was detonated on his front porch. A network of residents in town would call his office all day long, jamming the phone lines and warning him to stop selling in their neighborhood. The justice department opened an investigation into his business affairs with the explicit desire to freeze his real estate practice for an undetermined period of time until the inquiry was resolved.

Williams’ fight for equality led to his longtime involvement in the Southside Chicago branch of the NAACP, where he served as president from 1979 to 1985. Williams’ service and passionate advocacy led to his volunteer leadership involvement with theChicago REALTORS®. In 1989, he served as the association’s second black president. He also served as president of the Dearborn REALTIST® Board (the local NAREB chapter) among many other accomplishments and leadership roles across the city and country. He was inducted into our Hall of Fame in 2017.

To this day, Williams continues to be a strong advocate for fair housing in Chicago. He is also a real estate appraiser and has been advocating strongly against appraisal bias for years. Williams is currently working with House Representative Mary Flowers on HB093, which will amend the Real Estate License Act of 2000 and the Real Estate Appraiser Licensing Act of 2002. He was appointed by former Mayor Richard M. Daley to serve on the Affordable Housing Task Force and the Real Estate Services Advisory Council. Williams’ mantra, “We got a seat at the table and made a difference,” speaks true to his legacy, his long-lasting impact on the entire industry, and his influence on countless individuals across the country.

This award, sponsored by realtor.com®, provides a $5,000 prize that winners can dedicate to a housing-related nonprofit organization of their choice; Williams has chosen to donate to:

  • Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation
  • The Neighborhood Network Alliance
  • Far South Community Development Corporation
  • Rainbow PUSH Coalition
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

The Chicago REALTORS® Foundation matched this $5,000 prize.

Williams was honored by the Illinois REALTORS® in April during the Capitol Conference and REALTOR® Lobby Day and by the National Association of REALTORS® in May during the REALTOR® Legislative Meetings. We also hosted a reception to honor Frank’s impact on our association and the city of Chicago.