History of Avon Williams Building

The Avon Williams Building is located downtown, near the center of the Nashville business and government district.  It is named in honor of  Avon Nyanza Williams, Jr , a leading African American lawyer in Tennessee and state senator, represented the plaintiffs in Geier v. Blanton 1972.

In 1972, the federal judge, Frank T. Gray, Jr., allowed Sterling Adams and Raymond Richardson (two black professors of mathematics at TSU) and nearly 100 other black citizens from across Tennessee to enter the Geier case as plaintiffs.  They formed Tennesseans for Justice in Higher Education.  Their complaint centered on the issue that the presence in Nashville of two state supported universities, Tennessee State University a historically black institution and predominately white University of Tennessee at Nashville, perpetuated a state of segregation in higher education in Nashville.

In February 1977, Judge Gray ordered the merger of both institutions under the governance of Tennessee State University.  This was the first time that a court in a higher education desegregation suite had ordered a historically black college to take over a predominately white one.

In 1979 the University of Tennessee at Nashville merged with Tennessee State University, creating and enlarged institution with two campuses and increased enrollment.  The original TSU campus, located in North Nashville is designated as the Main Campus and the former UT-N campus was renamed in honor of Avon Williams, Jr.