Karen Hastie Williams was a graduate of Bates College and the Catholic University School of Law. She was a law clerk to Mr. Justice Thurgood Marshall and Judge Spottswood W. Robinson III of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She also served as Chief Counsel to the United States Senate Committee on the Budget and as Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the Office of Management and Budget. In 1982, Karen became Crowell & Moring’s first female partner and first African American partner. She ended her career as a partner in the Washington law firm of Crowell & Moring LLP where her law practices focused on public contract law, legislation, and strategic diversity counseling for corporate clients.
Karen served on the boards of directors of Chubb Corporation, Continental Airlines, Inc., Gannett Company, Inc., Washington Gas Holdings Company, SunTrust Bank, and the Federal National Mortgage Association Foundation. She also served on the boards of Crestar Bank, Fannie Mae, Bates College, and Amherst College, and was the first chair of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s independent board of governors. Karen had a special passion for the Black Student Fund, serving on its Board and as its chair for many years, and pursuing educational equity for students of color. From her first days after clerking, Karen also served on the board of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and chaired its Development Committee, generating funding and corporate support for its voting rights litigation and other racial justice initiatives. In addition, Karen was a recognized leader in the legal community, holding several leadership posts in the American Bar Association, the Enterprise Foundation, and other organizations. Karen is survived by her loving husband of 53 years, her three adult children, a brother, numerous cousins, and countless friends around the world. DirectWomen will continue to be inspired by the work and career of Karen Hastie Williams, a trailblazer in law, government, and business.