High school named in honor of alum
In May, the trustees of the Tamalpais Union High School District voted unanimously to change the name of Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo, California, to Archie Williams High School. “Archie Williams is inarguably an individual who made tremendous contributions to our school, our community and to our nation,” said Leslie Harlander, board president.
Born and raised in Oakland, Archie Williams (B.S.’39 ME) came to Berkeley in 1935 to study mechanical engineering and run track. At the NCAA track and field championships in 1936, he set a new world record for the 400-meter race with a time of 46.1 seconds. He went on to compete in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, winning a gold medal in the 400-meter race. After a welcome back to campus that included a noon rally on the steps of Wheeler Hall, Williams continued with his engineering studies and became the first Black student to run for the university’s student council.
After graduation, Williams earned his pilot’s license and was hired as a civilian flying instructor at the famed Tuskegee Army Flying School. He eventually enlisted in the Air Force — working as an instructor, weather officer and pilot — flying missions during World War II and the Korean War. After his retirement at the rank of lieutenant colonel, Williams taught high school math and computer science for over 20 years at Sir Francis Drake High School, where he was a revered educator and mentor.