The Black Man Who First Challenged Race-Based Scholarships Has His Sights Set on the United States Senate

In the entire history of the United States, only six African Americans have served in the U.S. Senate. With the retirement of Roland Burris of Illinois, who is serving out the term of Barack Obama, next year the Senate could once again be without a black member.

But this may not be the case. Michael Williams, a member of the Railroad Commission of Texas who is an African American, is a leading contender for the seat of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is running for governor. Williams has been endorsed by Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Williams is a native Texan but is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where he also earned a law degree. At USC he was the president of the Black Student Union and actively lobbied for increased diversity efforts at the university.

But after completing his education, Williams became enamored with the writings of conservative economist Thomas Sowell. Williams was a supporter of the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan. He served in the Reagan and Bush administrations.

As assistant secretary of education in 1990, Williams created a major controversy when he challenged the race-based scholarship program set up by the organizers of the Fiesta Bowl, the college football classic played each January in Arizona. The Williams policy was never officially implemented by the Bush Education Department and the challenge to race-based scholarships was thought to have gone by the wayside with the 1992 election of Bill Clinton as president. But two years later, what the Bush administration had failed to accomplish through executive action was realized by Reagan’s and Bush’s appointees to the federal bench. In 1994 the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down as unconstitutional the Benjamin Banneker Scholarship Program for black students at the University of Maryland. Since that time similar race-based programs have been abolished or modified at state-operated universities across the country.

It was Michael Williams who first let the cat out of the bag. And now he wants to bring his brand of conservatism to the United State Senate.