DeCharlene Williams, one of the most visible advocates of preservation and inclusive growth in the Central District in her decades heading the Central Area Chamber of Commerce, has died, her family announced this weekend.
“This morning at 9:06 AM I lost one of my best friends, my mom DeCharlene Williams to uterine sarcoma cancer,” her daughter Rita Green posted Sunday.
According to this biography from the Seattle Times, Williams was born in Texas in 1943. She founded the chamber in 1983 and had operated it over the decades as a proponent for the Central District businesses and for the area’s Black community. The chamber has been the sponsor of the neighborhood’s annual Juneteenth celebration including the parade where Williams made regular appearances.
Her career went beyond community festivals. As an advocate and center of communications, her work with the chamber and her DeCharlene Beauty Shop and Boutique represented a core to the rapidly developing neighborhood. Williams owned the E Madison building the chamber and the beauty shop called home and didn’t sell even as development rose around it. Today, a six-story, 50-unit mixed-use apartment building is under construction next door where the old tire shop used to stand at 22nd and Madison. The 1956-built, single-story retail building remains.
Williams marks the second recent death of prominent members of the Central District’s elder generation of civic leaders. In April, 19th and Madison’s Mt. Zion marked the passing of Rev. Dr. Samuel B. McKinney.
No public memorials or services have yet been announced for Williams.
UPDATE: The Seattle Medium has published its obituary about Williams and reports that she will be honored with Homegoing Services on June 2n at 11:00 AM at Mt. Zion. “One of William’s primary focuses around economic and community development is what she called ‘micro-businesses,’ typically understood as enterprises with five or fewer employees, or in some cases, no employees other than self-employed owners,” the Seattle Medium writes. “‘Hands that Touch Builds Unity’ was her motto. She wanted to bring the Black Community together to create economic independence.”