Dukes-Harley Funeral Home and Crematory
Hon. Karen J. Williams
(August 4, 1951 - November 2, 2013)
Karen J. Williams, 62, died Saturday, November 2, 2013 at her home on Five Chop Road in Orangeburg. A devoted wife to Charles and mother of Marian, Ashley, Charlie and David, Karen will long be remembered for her devotion to her family and her commitment to justice and the rule of law. She was a pioneer in the legal community of South Carolina and rose to the highest level of any female attorney in the history of the state when she was sworn in as the first woman Chief Justice of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Karen was born in Orangeburg in 1951. A graduate of the public schools of Orangeburg, she received her B.A. degree from Columbia College in 1972. After a few years of teaching in the public schools, Karen decided to pursue a career in law. Karen graduated at the top of her class and received her J.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1980.
She joined her husband Charles H. Williams and father-in-law Senator Marshall B. Williams in the law firm of Williams & Williams. She was an active trial lawyer for over a decade before being nominated by President George H. W. Bush to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on January 27, 1992. After being confirmed by the United States Senate on February 27, 1992, Karen was sworn in as the first woman to sit on this Court, which is located in Richmond, Virginia and serves South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia. Judge Williams became the Chief Judge of the Court in 2007, and she became the only woman ever to lead this Court. She retired in 2009 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. She was delighted to be able to spend more time with her friends and family.
Judge Williams is survived by her husband of 45 years, Charles H. Williams, II and her four children: Marian (Matt) Scalise of Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Ashley (Gary) Stevenson of Bronxville, N.Y.; Charlie (Blake) Williams of Orangeburg, S.C.; and David (Ginny) Williams of Orangeburg, S.C. She reveled in participating in the upbringing of her nine grandchildren: Matthew Scalise, Margaret Scalise, Will Groot, Mary Ashley Groot, Cholly Williams, Marshall Williams, Burns Williams, Olivia Williams, and Lilly Williams.
Judge Williams was born to the late Dr. James G. Johnson and Marcia Reynolds Dantzler of Orangeburg. Her stepfather was the late Dr. William J. Dantzler, and her step mother is Sherry A. Johnson of Orangeburg. She is survived by her mother-in-law Margaret S. Williams of Orangeburg. Her sisters are Charlene Scott, Jayme Smith, Jan Markiewicz, and Mary Lynne Loftus. Her step siblings are Billy Dantzler, Sharon Dantzler, and Ira Mueller. She was predeceased by Alice Dantzler.
Visitation will take place at Willbrook Plantation, the former home of Senator and Mrs. Marshall B. Williams, 2464 Five Chop Road (U.S. Highway 301 South) in Orangeburg on Sunday, November 3, 2013 from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. The funeral will be at the First Baptist Church of Orangeburg on the Square on Monday, November 4, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.
Pallbearers will be Dayle Bolen, Judge Perry Buckner, Archie Felder, John Felder, Gedney Howe, Sen. Brad Hutto, Tommy Jameson, Hank Jones, and Jim Roquemore. Honorary pallbearers will be all active and retired judges and justices of: The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals; The District Court of South Carolina; The South Carolina Supreme Court; The South Carolina Court of Appeals; and the South Carolina Circuit Courts.
Memorials can be sent to the Karen J. Williams Courtroom in care of the University of South Carolina School of Law (701 South Main Street, Columbia, S.C. 29208), the First Baptist Church of Orangeburg (1240 Russell Street, Orangeburg, S.C. 29115), or the Alzheimer’s Association – South Carolina Chapter (3223 Sunset Blvd, Suite 100, West Columbia, S.C. 29169).