John H. Williams – Omega’s Beloved Photographic Trailblazer

Omega’s Beloved Photographic Trailblazer

On Saturday, February 23, 2019, Bro. John Herman Williams transitioned to Omega Chapter. Below is a feature written back in 2010 by Bro. Milbert O. Brown, Jr. ####

John Herman Williams love for photography began when his sister won a Kodak Brownie camera at school selling seeds.  She discarded the camera giving the prize to her younger brother, John.

The eight-year old, John treasured the gift and began photographing his family.  Even now, at 91, he still carries his good friend-a camera.

Williams grew up in a small town, Monroe, North Carolina. He was the third child born to John and Emma Williams on October 16, 1918.  John’s father worked as a boilermaker on the railway, with his wife, Emma at home caring for the couple’s six children.

At Shaw University, John played basketball and majored in social studies. His education was interrupted, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II.

During his Army years, John purchased his first 35mm camera, an Argus C3.  While serving, Williams used his weapon of choice, a camera to document the life and culture of Black soldiers overseas and stateside.

After the Army, Williams returned to Shaw University graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1947.  Later he moved to Detroit and began working as a photographer for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. To increase his formal education in photography, he studied at Wayne State University and Eastman Kodak in Rochester, NY.

During graduate studies at Wayne State University, Williams was initiated into Omega Psi Phi Fraternity through Nu Sigma Chapter in 1953.  Almost immediately, Brother Williams did what he has done so well throughout his life—photographing priceless historical moments of Omega events.

“At first I was just running around taking pictures,” said Brother Williams.  Judge Marion W. Garnett, the 29th Grand Basileus noticed how Bro. Williams would display his Omega photographs during District and Conclaves meetings.

After checking the Fraternity records, Garnett noted that there had never been an official photographer. In 1973, without reservations Brother John H. Williams was appointed as the first Official Photographer for Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

In the 1994 “Pictorial Chronicle of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity,” Brother Williams photographs were prominently featured throughout the book.

After 33 years of service as the Fraternity’s Official Photographer, Brother Williams retired from his post in 2006. He was later named as Omega’s “International Photographer Emeritus.”

In 2008, Omega men from throughout the country joined Brother John H. Williams at his 90th birthday celebration at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

Today, Brother Williams’ photographic work is housed at the “John H. Williams Museum” located at the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity’s International Headquarters in Georgia.

2010 article by Que Report Editor,  Brother Milbert O. Brown, Jr.

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