The Joel R. Williamson Distinguished Professorship was established by John A. and Paula R. Powell of Palo Alto, California. John Powell is a 1977 UNC alumnus. The Williamson professorship was the largest single endowed chair established by an individual in the College of Arts and Sciences during the university’s Carolina First fund-raising campaign.

Joel Williamson, the retired Lineberger professor in the humanities at UNC-Chapel Hill, has taught generations of Carolina students about the complexities of the American South and race relations. He is particularly well known for his work on William Faulkner and Margaret Mitchell, and for his extensive scholarship on race relations in the South.

Williamson joined the history faculty at Carolina in 1960. He is the author of many acclaimed books, including “William Faulkner and Southern History” (Oxford University Press, 1993) and “The Crucible of Race: Black-White Relations in the American South since Emancipation” (Oxford University Press, 1984). Both books received the prestigious Mayflower Cup award and were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in History. “The Crucible of Race” also won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award (from Phi Beta Kappa), the Francis Parkman Prize (from the Society of American Historians) and the Frank L. and Harriet C. Owsley Award.

“Our extraordinarily generous benefactor has given the university a gift that will make a difference in the lives of our students for generations to come,” said Williamson. “More resources for researching and writing translate directly into more effective teaching. Nothing makes for better teaching more than the teacher’s conviction that he or she has discovered a story that the students have just got to hear.”

The Joel R. Williamson Distinguished Professor

2003 – Present: William R. Ferriss