A house of cards collapses for USC Professor

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Walter Williams, arrested in Mexico on June 4 as a fugitive from the FBI, is not a man who attracts indifference. There are some who think he was a great teacher and was among the most important intellectual forces in the movement to liberate and normalize the LGBT community. There are also plenty – perhaps even more – that hate the man. 

Among the latter are some of the most important people in the community. The late Harry Hay, for example, grand old man of gay liberation and founder of the Radical Fairies, despised Williams with vehemence. On-line commentaries by people who claim to have known and worked with him have used such terms as “creep” and “worm” in describing him.

His numerous books on aspects of homosexuality and over 130 articles published as a tenured professor of anthropology at University of Southern California have been widely regarded as among the most important contributions to gay scholarship. He is often credited with creating USC’s enormous archive of LGBT history. His career was ornamented with numerous awards, both academic and for the advance of civil liberties, as well as a Fulbright scholarship.

But behind this carefully crafted façade of academic distinction there was, according to some people who knew him well, a very different Walter Williams.

Dr. Todd White, PhD, himself a distinguished author of books on LGBT history, stated in an interview that Williams career “left a trail of lies and broken hearts.”  White stated that Williams’ creation of One Institute and the LGBT history archive was accomplished by making up a fake history for One Institute and by a complicated series of “double dealings” and inappropriate and unethical taking of materials.

White, worked for Williams as an unpaid teaching assistant for several years while earning his own PhD in anthropology. He was in a position to observe William’s methods closely. According to White, Williams was notorious for misusing his position to involve himself personally with the subjects of supposedly scientific research.

This is precisely what the FBI claimed when it listed Williams among its Ten Most Wanted. The Bureau stated Williams had established an internet relationship with two 14 year old boys in the Philippines and then traveled there to allegedly have sex with them. The FBI also charged him with making pornographic pictures of one of the boys and stated they had a list of other, similar victims. If true, White characterized this as ”the worst sort of misuse of scholarship. Anthropologists around the world should be up in arms about it.”

USC has issued a brief statement essentially denying all responsibility. White characterized this as “Penn State syndrome.”  Referring to Williams’ habit of making passes at attractive, young male students as it was reported on the internet, White said, “they knew what was going on. It was a matter of old, tenured faculty circling the wagons to protect one of their own.”

While this disgraceful episode may provide some fuel for  homophobes and right wing preachers in their stories about how all gay men are pedophiles, the FBI in its official statement was very careful to explicitly note that Williams’ alleged behavior was not to be in any way taken as typical of gay men.

 

Walter Williams, arrested in Mexico on June 4 as a fugitive from the FBI, is not a man who attracts indifference. There are some who think he was a great teacher and was among the most important intellectual forces in the movement to liberate and normalize the LGBT community. There are also plenty – perhaps even more – that hate the man.