Editor’s Note: Kam Williams was a frequent contributor to the Sentinel. We send our condolences to his family and loved ones.
Long-time Sentinel contributing film critic and literary writer, Kam Williams has died. Williams, who enjoyed a nearly 22-year career as a writer, passed away May 30 from prostate cancer. He was 66 years old.
A resident of Princeton, N.J., Williams published nearly 10,000 articles and reviews before he passed away. Over the past two decades, he gained notoriety for his film reviews and celebrity interviews for over 100 publications around the world, ranging from local papers such as Princeton’s Town Topics and the MSR to international news chain Metro and review site RottenTomatoes.com. Williams also wrote countless book reviews and editorials, as well as a novel that will be published posthumously later this year.
Born Lloyd Joseph Williams in New York City and raised in St. Albans, Queens, Williams was given the nickname “Kam (short for “Kamau”) by famed jazz musician Sun Ra while attending Brown University.
Williams’ path to a career in writing was circuitous. After graduating from Brooklyn Tech High School in New York City, he went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Black literature from Cornell University in 1974.
He first attempted a career in screenwriting at Chicago’s WTTW, a PBS affiliate TV station, while working on his Master’s in English from Brown in 1975. However, Williams, had a diverse set of interests and diverted his attention from writing to business and entertainment law, receiving his J.D. from Boston University in 1978 (along with Bar membership in MA, PA, CT, NY and NJ) followed by an MBA. from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1980.
Williams’ first wife, the late Kristina Barbara Johnson, introduced him to art dealing and the antique business in which he subsequently deployed his corporate and legal knowledge for over a decade.
According to friends and family, he had a colorful personality and a commanding presence. A tall African American man with freckles, he wore his red-tinged hair in what became his signature afro, and was immediately noticeable in a crowd.
His diverse life experiences and base of knowledge (he was a polymath who read a book a week) made him a compelling conversationalist and led to a brief but recurring guest appearance on the radio show, The Howard Stern Show.
It was that experience that later sparked his career in journalism. A family friend and writer at Princeton Packet, a local newspaper in his hometown, recommended Williams write a film review of Howard Stern’s 1997 biographical film Private Parts.
His work ethic and glowing journalistic reputation led to extensive work interviewing celebrities associated with upcoming film and book releases, including Quentin Tarantino, Denzel Washington, Mel Brooks, Russell Simmons, LeBron James, and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, among many others.
Williams was also a staunch supporter of civil rights-related causes, publishing countless op-eds on the topic and later joined the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee.
Outside of his writing career, he had a deep passion for music and boasted a large collection of albums. He enjoyed long daily walks in nature, was an avid sports fan and a passionate Little League baseball coach. He was also an enthusiastic participant in weekly trivia nights with a large group of friends.
He is survived by many friends, four siblings (Lawrence, Daryl, Teresa and Rod) and his second wife of 25 years, Susan, and stepson, Nicholas.
A memorial service will be held at the Princeton Garden Theater on June 29.