The California Hall of Fame honors Archie Williams with an induction

US Air Force pilot, Olympic gold medal winner and high school teacher  Archie Williams. (photo courtesy of US Department of Defense)
US Air Force pilot, Olympic gold medal winner and high school teacher Archie Williams. (photo courtesy of US Department of Defense)
US Department Defence

On Aug. 22, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Sibel Newsom inducted the 16th class of the California Hall of Fame. They included Archie Williams, an Olympic gold medalist, Air Force flight instructor, and namesake of Archie Williams High School, in this year’s class of inductees. The hall of fame inducted him alongside other notable Californians, such as actress Carrie Fisher and “At Last” singer Etta James.

The Governor has selected California Hall of Fame inductees every year since 2006, to honor Californians who have influenced the state, country, or world.

“Each one of these pioneers has uniquely impacted California through their boundless creativity, perseverance, and courage – encapsulating the California dream through their lives and legacies,” Jennifer Sibel Newsom said during the induction ceremony.

The California Museum commemorated Williams with a virtual exhibit on their website, detailing his long list of accomplishments. Those included him winning gold in the 400-meter race during Berlin’s 1936 Olympics, the event that Hitler expected to showcase Aryan racial superiority and failed to do so because of Williams and his teammates. He went on to break numerous barriers, earning degrees in mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineering, and meteorology, as well as his pilot’s license, despite the racism he faced.

“Williams pursued his dreams fearlessly and with a sense of humor, finding success beyond athletics in the face of racism and discrimination,” reads his virtual exhibition.

For the last couple decades of his career, Williams taught math and coached track at what was then Sir Francis Drake High School. He left behind an inspirational legacy that led to the renaming of the school in his honor. He was especially known for supporting his students, especially those that he saw struggling.

“Archie was one of the few teachers that would collect the troubled youth of that day with open arms, and try to point us in the right direction,” said David Durr, a former student of Williams.

“That’s the kind of teacher that I would want my own kids to have, someone who deeply cared about kids and their success in class. He was someone who came early and stayed late just to help and support kids.” AWHS Principal LaSandra White said.

State-wide recognition like this not only shares Williams’ legacy with more people but also proves that he impacted communities both in and outside of AWHS.

“It’s a great honor and I think he deserves this recognition and more,” White said, “I think it’s important to recognize people, especially people of color, who have done great things in the community, state and the world. [Archie Williams has] done so much.”

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