Virginia E. Hayes Williams, the much-loved mother of former D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, has died after a brief illness. She was 87.
Williams worked as a professional singer, but also spent time as a postal worker. She was extremely popular during her son’s time at the helm of the city, frequently attending official functions, weddings and social events where she delighted audiences by breaking into song and became affectionately referred to as the city’s “First Mother.”
According to a statement released Jan. 23 by Tony Bullock, the former spokesman for Anthony Williams, Virginia Williams died in Los Angeles. She moved to the District from Los Angeles to help her son in his first bid for mayor, and loved the city so much that she stayed for many years.
“My mother was a great joy in my life, and she had a huge impact on the District,” Anthony Williams, now CEO and executive director of the Federal City Council, said in a statement. “She was an incomparable performer on stage, but her real performance was in service to the children and the families of our city.”
Former Mayor Williams was the adopted son of Virginia and one of her eight children. They were extremely close and she was often by his side during his two terms. She was much more visible during his years as mayor than his wife, Diane Simmons Williams.
“She was really proud of her son and the fact that he was elected mayor of the nation’s capital,” said Yolanda Woodlee, who profiled Virginia Williams as a reporter for The Washington Post. “She was a very gracious and elegant woman who really adopted D.C. as her home.”
Woodlee said that, while researching Virginia Williams, she went to see her perform in a play at the Carter Barron Amphitheater. She was the most visible mother of a D.C. elected official in recent history.
“People really loved Virginia Williams. She assimilated into the community and became one of the city’s own,” Woodlee said
Sherry Woods, executive director of the Unique Learning Center, a nonprofit Christian academic enrollment program for children in the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest Washington, said she met Virginia Williams in 2007 when she attended a program there. The organization honored her the next year with their "Model of Excellence" Award. She said Virginia Williams served as a tutor for a year for one of the boys in the program.
“Mrs. Williams was just a jewel," Woods said. “They are not cut like her anymore…She had this ability to connect with the little person to an elder. She had that capacity to move in any circle with such grace and poise. U wanted to know her. You wanted to be around her.”
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Covenant House of the District of Columbia, www.covenanthousedc.org