Catherine Gayle Virginia Williams

May 20, 2020

Service Details

Catherine Gayle Virginia Williams, born on November 21, 1914 to Godfrey and Ethel Williams, the fourth of seven children, Maxine, Herbert, Cecilia, Richard, Cornell and Paul. Catherine passed away on May 20, 2020. Public visitation will be held Friday, June 26, 2020 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at Hamilton’s on Westown Parkway, 3601 Westown Parkway in West Des Moines. Private funeral services will follow at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, June 27 at St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Des Moines. Guests will be invited to join Catherine’s service virtually through the link in her obituary website.

Catherine attended the Des Moines schools, graduating from North High School in 1932. Following a dancing career of 16 years, she received a business college degree from Cortez Peters in Chicago, a B.S. degree from Drake University, and her master’s degree in social work from the University of Iowa. Catherine was an employee of the state of Iowa for 33 years, beginning as a secretary and retiring in 1981 as Deputy Commissioner for the Iowa Department of Social Services. During her career, Catherine received an Honorary Doctoral degree from Simpson College, Distinguished Alumnus from Drake University, Social Worker of the Year, Mark Hale Lecture Award from the University of Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 1982, North High School Distinguished Alumna, Mary Louise Smith Award from the Y.M.C.A., and the Iowa African American Hall of Fame. In 2010, the local chapter of N.A.S.W. initiated an annual award in Catherine’s name for social workers in diversity. In 2018 she earned both the Sages Over 70 Award, and the Drake University National Alumni Award in Community Service. In 2019 she was inducted into the National Association of Social Workers Foundation Pioneers Program.

Catherine was a member of St. Paul A.M.E. Church since childhood, serving as a Sunday school teacher, class leader, steward, a member of the William Sampson Brooks Missionary Society, and was the histographer for the North District of the Illinois Annual Conference. Catherine was also a member of the Y.W.C.A., Racial Justice, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Des Moines Chapter of The Links, Inc., life member of the N.A.A.C.P., The Bridges Club, Hostess Club, and past member of the Mary Church Terrell #2 and the Book Lovers Club.

Catherine married Richard Williams, Jr. in 1963. She was preceded in death by her husband Richard Williams, Jr in 1995 and her brother, Dr. Paul G. Williams of Los Angeles. She is survived by her nephew, Thomas Clinton; nieces, Lorna Long and Helen Smith; great-nieces, Aidah and Amani Clinton; great-nephew, Asad Clinton; and many friends.

Memorial contributions may be directed to St Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church. Online condolences may be expressed at