Novella S. Williams

Novella S. Williams was regarded as one of Philadelphia’s most profound civic leaders.

She died on Friday, March 20, 2015 of heart failure. She was 87.

Williams was the founder of Citizens for Progress Inc. (CFP). Under her leadership, the West Philadelphia-based organization was regarded as one of the most dynamic human rights organizations in the nation. CFP was driven by its mission to promote and develop affirmative public education and economic improvement for all people with special attention to the African-American community.

Williams also founded more than two dozen other citizen action groups in the areas of education, alcohol and drug abuse prevention, recreation, housing, healthcare, crime prevention and economic development.

Williams was the founder of the West Philadelphia Community Free School, Black Women’s Crusade Against Vice, Crime and Corruption and the director of the Philadelphia Anti-Poverty Action. She was credited with the clean-up and revitalization of the “52nd Street Strip.”

Williams was a former trustee of Lincoln University and the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

After the death of her eldest daughter, she founded the Kim Denise Williams Health and Education Foundation and was passionate about enlightening the community on the disparities which exist within healthcare.

She was appointed to the United States Department of Transportation’s Minority Business Resource Center Advisory Board by President Jimmy Carter, served as a non-governmental organization representative to the United Nations and as a delegate for the Democratic National Convention in 1976.

She also served as vice-chair of the Police Advisory Commission of Philadelphia, co-chair and on the Urban Affairs Coalition board.

For her commitment to cultural and political awareness and her determination to provoke change, Williams received numerous awards including Woman of the Year Award from the National Association of Public Accountants, a Humanitarian Award from the National Opportunities Industrialization Center, a Community Service Award from the Black Political Forum, Woman of Wonder Award from the National Organization of Women, Citizen’s Award from Blacks Networking for Progress and a Cultural Advancement Award from The Bronze Association.

Williams was a longtime member of White Rock Baptist Church under the pastorate of Rev. William J. Shaw. She often attended the National Baptist Conventions.

As a leader, lecturer and consultant, Williams’ knowledge, skills and talents have been called upon by United States presidents, governors, mayors and other public officials as well as community leaders.

“Her distinguished voice challenging us to seek action against injustice and her incomparable work until just before her death to create change, will be sorely missed,” her family said.

A native of Raleigh, N.C., she moved to Philadelphia in 1948 with her late husband, Thomas Williams.

She is survived by: her son, Thomas and daughters, Michelle and Pamela.

The first viewing was held March 29 at 5 p.m. at White Rock Baptist Church, 5240 Chestnut St. The second viewing was held at 8 a.m. March 30 at White Rock. Services followed at 10 a.m. Burial was in Fernwood Cemetery, 6501 Baltimore Ave., Lansdowne.

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