I learned from Don Boudreaux this morning that Walter Williams died either this morning or last night. For those of you who don’t know, he was a long-time economics professor at George Mason University.

I’ll have more to say later but I want to give one appreciation.

Walter liked smoking and he also hated the TSA. Some years ago, the combination of no-smoking regs on planes and intrusive groping by the TSA caused him to vow never to fly by commercial airline again. When he received offers to give speeches  that were far enough away that driving was infeasible, he negotiated for a private airplane to take him there.

In February 2013 Armen Alchian died and there was a memorial service for Armen at UCLA in March. I arrived hours early because I didn’t want to take the chance on a later flight. (Flights between Monterey and LAX do not have a good on-time record.) One of the earliest people to arrive, as I tell here, was Walter Williams. Walter was an even bigger fan of Armen than I was.

When I heard Walter was there, I walked out to say hi and he was sitting in his rental car trying to figure out where to park. (This was UCLA, after all.)

“Walter,” I said, “I’m surprised to see you here. I’m sure no one paid for you to fly by private jet. You must have flown commercial.”

Walter smiled that beautiful smile and said, “I had to do it for Armen.”


Dominic Pino, a student at George Mason University, posted a very nice remembrance that really captures who Walter was. My favorite paragraph:

As Williams persisted well beyond retirement age, his passion for economics undimmed, he was the kind of man that made you say, “He’s going to teach until the day he dies.” On Dec. 1, he taught his last class of ECON 811 to complete the semester, ending the 7:20-10:00 p.m. block around 30 minutes early, as was typical. Fewer than 12 hours later, he died, aged 84. R.I.P.