Texas Tech University

Renowned Legal Scholar Becomes First Fred Gray Endowed Chair

February 19, 2024

Fred Gray and Mark Lanier

Kenneth Williams has been selected as the ideal fit to carry on Gray’s legacy.

Fred Gray is a man of immense impact.

He was a leading figure in the fight for civil rights, defended Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. in court, helped plan the Montgomery bus boycott, was a legal counselor in Browder v. Gayle and made a career fighting injustice. 

In November 2023, Mark and Becky Lanier made sure Gray's legacy would long live in the hearts, minds and educations of students at Texas Tech University's School of Law

Their generosity established the Fred Gray Endowed Chair for Civil Rights and Constitutional Law with the hope that the law school would find a person to fill the chair who exemplified two of Gray's most admirable characteristics – a strong moral sense of right and wrong, and a strong work ethic. 

“(Gray) works diligently one step at a time to achieve masterful goals,” Mark said at the time. “And I think both of those attributes, a sense of moral justice and a sense of hard work, are a one-two punch that will take people further than they ever dreamed.”

The law school believes it has found those characteristics in Kenneth Williams. 

Kenneth Williams
Kenneth Williams

“We are honored and excited to welcome Professor Williams to Texas Tech University School of Law as the Fred Gray Endowed Chair for Civil Rights and Constitutional Law,” said Jack Wade Nowlin, dean of the School of Law. “With his wealth of knowledge and strong dedication to mentoring students, I have no doubt he will greatly enrich our academic community. Professor Williams is exactly the kind of scholar and teacher we hoped to be able to recruit with the Fred Gray Endowed Chair.”

Williams comes to the School of Law from South Texas College of Law Houston and will begin as the first Fred Gray Endowed Chair in August.  

“I am thrilled to be joining the faculty at Texas Tech University School of Law and to take on the responsibilities of the Fred Gray Endowed Chair,” Williams said. “I'm looking forward to contributing to the rich tradition of legal education at Texas Tech and engaging with students on critical issues in civil rights and constitutional law.” 

Williams is a nationally-recognized expert on capital punishment. His book, “Most Deserving of Death?” on the death penalty and Supreme Court jurisprudence, and his numerous law review articles on capital punishment and policing, highlight his dedication to advancing legal discourse on constitutional law issues.

Williams has also served as habeas counsel for eight Texas death row inmates, with notable success in cases involving complex constitutional issues.

He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of San Francisco and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Virginia School of Law. 

At South Texas College of Law Houston, Williams taught a variety of courses in areas such as capital punishment, criminal procedure, international human rights, criminal law and evidence.

Geoffrey Corn, the George R. Killam Jr. Chair of Criminal Law, also came to Texas Tech from South Texas College where he worked alongside Williams, and he believes adding his former colleague to the School of Law faculty will be a great benefit to Texas Tech. 

“I am delighted that my friend Kenneth Williams will once again be my colleague, and I know how fortunate our law school and broader university community are as a result of his decision to join our faculty,” Corn said. “Kenneth is a role model of devotion to the high ideals of the law and will bring both experience and inspiration to the many Texas Tech law students who will now have the good fortune of learning from him.” 

Texas Tech Now