City of Akron to Host Renaming Ceremony for Lawton Street Community Center Tomorrow

Akron, Ohio, March 18, 2024  — Today, Akron Mayor Shammas Malik announced the city will host a renaming ceremony for the Lawton Street Community Center in honor of the late Judge James R. Williams. The ceremony will take place at the community center (1225 Lawton St.) tomorrow (Tuesday, March 19) from 4-6pm. The event is open to the public.

In 2022, Akron City Council passed a resolution encouraging the administration to rename the community center in honor of Judge Williams. Judge James R. Williams was a University of Akron alumnus, civil rights leader, former Akron City Councilman, and was the first African American to serve as a Summit County Court of Common Pleas Judge. He was among the first African Americans to graduate from the University of Akron School of Law after it became affiliated with the University in 1959. Prior to his legal career, Judge Williams taught at Akron Public Schools, served as a senior staff member for the City's Department of Planning and Urban Development and Department of Parks and Recreation, and served as the Ward 4 Councilman. He had a distinguished legal career which began when he was appointed as a Judge to the Akron Municipal Court in 1983 and was elected to the Akron Municipal Court bench in 1985 and 1987. He continued as a Judge in 1989 having been appointed to the Summit County Court of Common Pleas and elected in both 1992 and 1998. He also served as president of the Common Pleas Judges Association of Ohio, Summit County Legal Services Program, the Metro YMCA, the Summit County Community Action Agency, the Salvation Army, Leadership Akron and the Akron Roundtable.

His family, which includes his daughter-in-law Akron Municipal Court Judge Annalisa Stubbs Williams, are proud of the impact he had on our community.

“It is my honor to host this ceremony to help preserve the memory and impact of Judge Williams,” said Mayor Shammas Malik. “Judge Williams was a pioneer in his field and laid the foundation for many who have followed him. His work and impact should be remembered here in Akron and this renaming will ensure that his legacy lives on. I want to thank the Williams family for championing this effort and allowing the city to honor their family member in this way.”

Run of Show for the Renaming Ceremony:

  • Master of Ceremony Mr. Michael D. Williams son of the late Honorable Judge James R. Williams
  • Welcome: Mr. Eufrancia Lash, Deputy Director of Public Service for the City of Akron
  • Invocation: Charles Debose, PHD
  • Mayor of the City of Akron Mr. Shammas Malik, Esq.
  • Janice Davis Akron 4th Ward Councilwoman
  • Russell Neal Former Akron 4th Ward Councilman
  • Judge Solomon Oliver Retired Federal Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
  • Edward Gilbert President Emeritus Akron Canton Barristers and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Beta Rho Boule Grammateus
  • Charles Parnell, Chairman of Alpha Phi Alpha Foundation of Akron
  • Ophelia Averitt Akron President Emeritus and NAACP National Board of Directors
  • Judi Hill Akron NAACP President
  • Vernon Sykes State Senator for the 28th District of Ohio
  • James R. Williams II, Grandson of the Late Honorable James R. Williams

Stephanie Marsh, Director of Communications or 330-256-1191