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On December 30, 2003, the President of the United States, through the Secretary of Defense, invited Chief Justice Williams to be a member of the then Military Commissions Review Panel for tribunals to be held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with the rank of Major General. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 created the Court of Military Commission Review on which Williams served as Chief Judge until December 2009.
Chief Justice Williams was born and raised in Cranston, Rhode Island. He attended public school in Cranston and went on to receive his A.B. in government and history from Boston University in 1962. Upon graduation, Chief Justice Williams served for almost five years in the United States Army, rising to the rank of Captain. During his military service, he served in Germany on the East/West border and in Vietnam, receiving many awards and decorations (Bronze Star, three Air Medals, an Army Commendation Medal, two Vietnamese Campaign Medals, and a Combat Infantryman's Badge). He was also decorated by the Republic of Vietnam with, among other honors, the Gallantry Cross with Silver Star for Valor.
Returning to Rhode Island after his discharge, Williams entered Boston University School of Law, and graduated with a J.D. in 1970. He was admitted to the Rhode Island Bar in 1970, and to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar in 1976. Williams subsequently earned a Master's degree in Taxation, and served as a visiting lecturer at the Rhode Island School of Design. He is presently an adjunct professor at Roger Williams University School of Law and the U.S. Naval War College. He has been awarded Honorary Degrees from Lincoln College, Southeastern New England School of Law, Johnson & Wales University, Lincoln Memorial University, Roger Williams University School of Law, Bryant College, Massachusetts School of Law, University of Rhode Island, and Oklahoma State University.
In his long career in public service, Williams served as a solicitor and arbitrator for a number of Rhode Island towns and communities. He was twice elected Town Moderator of Richmond, Rhode Island, and was elected a delegate to the 1986 Rhode Island Constitutional Convention. He was appointed Chair of the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation by the governor in 1995. In addition, he served in several judicial capacities, including Judge of Probate, Member (and later chairman) of the state's Board of Bar Examiners, and member of several arbitration and legal advisory panels.
Chief Justice Williams is also one of the nation's leading scholars on the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. In August 2000, he was appointed to the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission by the Congress and now serves on the board of directors of the Commission’s successor, The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. He is the founding Chair of The Lincoln Forum. In addition, he is a major collector of Lincolniana, a peripatetic lecturer before Lincoln and Civil War groups, and a scholar whose books include, with Edna Greene Medford and Harold Holzer, The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views (Louisiana State University Press, 2006). His latest book, Lincoln Lessons: Reflections on America’s Greatest Leader, with William D. Pederson, was published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2009.
He has been named by Lawdragon as one of the top 500 judges, out of 30,000, in the United States.
FRANK J. WILLIAMS
Frank J. Williams was appointed Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court by Governor Lincoln Almond and unanimously confirmed by the Rhode Island General Assembly in January 2001, after serving for five years as Associate Justice of the Superior Court. He served as Chief until retiring on December 30, 2008, when he took “senior” status as a jurist without the administrative duties.
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