“She gave voice to the concept of sponsorship, of actively mentoring women,” Susan Hoffman, a partner at Crowell & Moring, said in an interview. “She didn’t sit back and say, ‘Good luck!’”
Karen Roberta Hastie was born on Sept. 30, 1944, in Washington. Her father, William H. Hastie, was himself a racial pioneer: In 1937 he became the first Black man to serve as a Federal District Court judge, a job he left to become dean of the law school at Howard University.
In 1946, when Karen was 2, President Harry S. Truman appointed her father governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Karen’s mother, Beryl (Lockhart) Hastie, a homemaker, had been born.
Three years later, Mr. Hastie broke another barrier when Truman nominated him to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, based in Philadelphia. He was the country’s first Black appellate court judge.
Ms. Hastie graduated from Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine, in 1966 and received a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts a year later. While at Tufts she met Mr. Williams; they married in 1968.
Along with her husband and her son Bo, Mrs. Williams is survived by her daughter, Amanda P. Williams; another son, Bailey; her brother, William H. Hastie; and six grandchildren.
After her time with Justice Marshall, Mrs. Williams served as chief counsel for the newly establish Senate Budget Committee and then as an administrator in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, where she pushed reforms that opened federal contracts to minority-owned businesses.