Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams, QC, SAN was a prominent Nigerian lawyer who was the first Nigerian to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. In the 1950s, he was a member of the Action Group and subsequently became the minister for local government and Justice. He was the president of the Nigerian Bar Association in 1959, the association is the leading body for lawyers in the country. He left politics in the 1960s, as a result of the political crisis in the Western Region of Nigeria.
Rotimi Williams was born on 16 December 1920 in Lagos. He had his primary and secondary education at the Methodist Ologbowo School and C.M.S Grammar School respectively and proceeded to pursue his career in Law where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in 1942 and was called to the bar at the Gray’s Inn, London in 1943.
He set up the first indigenous Nigerian law firm in 1948 with Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode and Chief Bode Thomas. The law firm was called “Thomas, Williams, and Kayode”.
Frederick Williams was a prominent Nigerian lawyer who was the first Nigerian to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
His father and uncle being lawyers too and called to the bar in 1927 and 1892 respectively, it could be said that it runs in the family although his own older brother, Akintola Williams, born a year earlier, was a distinguished Chartered Accountant.
He was a member of the Action Group and subsequently became the minister for local government and Justice in the 1950s. He became the president of the Nigerian Bar Association in 1959, which was the leading body for lawyers in the country. He was in politics until the 60s when the political crisis in the Western Region of Nigeria arose.
On 18 October 1975, Rotimi Williams became the chairman of the Constitutional Drafting Committee. The body was formed to present a draft constitution to be approved by the military administration of Obasanjo. He led the convention to present an agenda for broad coalition-building across ethnic and regional lines.
Throughout his career, he was involved in some memorable and important court cases, such as Lakanmi vs the Western Government of Nigeria, which set the precedent that a military government could not use its power to make laws that will appropriate an individual’s property.
He was exceptional, a genius who attained the greatest professional height through sheer diligence and extraordinary devotion to his calling. His example is worth commending to all of mankind. At 84, and up to a few months before he died, he never stopped working as a forensic advocate, shuttling, even with his diminished energy, from one court to the other.
He was also a man of distinctive courage and spoke publicly on sensitive national issues, both as an individual and chairman of The Patriots, a non-political, non-governmental organisation he co-founded. Before the present democratic dispensation, Williams had always expressed strong views against obnoxious government policies. He did this even at a time of military dictatorship when abuse of human and constitutional rights were rampant and it was extremely dangerous to be seen as a government critic.
Rotimi Williams lived in Ilupeju until his passing in 2005. His law firm, FRA Williams Chambers, is still in Ilupeju till date.