Williams also shares what it was like growing up in segregated St. Pete, as well as a touching story about meeting his idol, boxer and activist Muhammad Ali.

The Hon. Charles E. Williams was the first Black circuit judge in the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida, appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles on November 8, 1997. Williams took office in January of 1998.

Born in Durham, North Carolina, Williams was raised in St. Petersburg from the age of 4. He moved to Sarasota in the mid-1980s for a job offer with his wife, Jacquelyn, and their two daughters, Caitlin and Charlette.

Williams has clocked time at the state attorney’s office in Sarasota, the public defenders’ offices in Sarasota and Manatee counties, and in private practice. His awards include Manatee County Bar Association’s Community Service Award, Manatee and Sarasota Counties’ NAACP’s Public Service Award, Sarasota County Branch NAACP’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the C.L. McKaig Award, presented by the Sarasota County Bar Association in recognition and appreciation of his tireless dedication to promoting the ideals of equality, justice and professionalism.

Outside his judicial duties, Williams writes, directs, and produces documentary films. His Film Through the Tunnel won Best Historical Documentary at the DocMiami International Film Festival. He received the 2015 Sidney Poitier Family Award for his work on the film Newtown at 100 and for promoting diversity in film. Currently, he’s working on a documentary with former judge Durand Adams titled Fish Fry, which is scheduled for release in 2024.

Williams also sits on the boards of Embracing Our Differences, Florida Studio Theatre, The Boxser Diversity Initiative, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition, and he works closely with Booker High School’s Law Academy. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You can continue reading the full article on Sarasota Magazine, where it was originally published and written by Heather Dunhill on December 11, 2023.