Catherine G. Williams


"Catherine Williams’ involvement in managing the Iowa Department of Social Services has brought prominence and pride to the State of Iowa and to her local community of Des Moines." —Marcia Peterson & Thomas Jones, Jr., 1979

Catherine G. Williams, an exemplary leader in social services, has worked for the Iowa Department of Social Services for nearly 30 years. Ultimately deputy commissioner of the department, she began her career as a typist. Williams has been responsible for many innovations in social service delivery in Iowa, particularly in foster care programming. She held the first statewide training program for foster parents of retarded children and wrote the department's first foster care study. The Des Moines native became the highest-ranking African-American female in state government and one of the highest ranking in social services nationally. Born in 1914, Williams spent 13 years right after high school graduation as a professional dancer in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Williams was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1980. UPDATE: Williams has served on the Health Facilities Council, the City of Des Moines Planning and Zoning Committee, Project Helper Board, Council of Human Services, Simpson College Task Force on Minority Student Concerns, United Way--Model Cities Allocation Committee, and the Community Relations Task Force--NAACP and Jewish Federation. She has also served as coordinator for the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women and Commission on Aging Conference on Older Women and as project coordinator for The Links, Inc.--"I AM SOMEBODY" and High Expectations Project. Among the many honors and awards Williams has received since her induction are Social Worker of the Year for State of Iowa, 1980; University of Iowa Mark Hale Lecturer, 1980; Drake University Distinguished Alumnae Award, 1981; Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Simpson College, 1981; State of Iowa Volunteer Award, 1984; Morris Scholarship Fund in 1985; YWCA/Mary Louise Smith Racial Justice Award, 1990; The University of Iowa, School of Social Work Distinguished Alumnae Award, 1990; North High School (Des Moines) Distinguished Alumna Award, 1991; Iowa African-Americans Hall of Fame, 1999; P.A.C.E., 1999; and National Black Child Development Institute Award, 2000.