Robin Murphy Williams (1914-2006) was born on October 11, 1914 in Hillsborough, NC, son of Robin M., Sr. (a farmer) and Mabel (a homemaker). He received his B.S. in 1933 from North Carolina State College; his M.S. in 1935 from N.C. State and the University of North Carolina; his M.A. in 1939 from Harvard University; and his Ph.D. in 1943 from Harvard University.During World War II, he served in the Special Services Division of the US War Department in Washington, D.C. and the European Theater of Operations from 1942 to 1946. As an Army researcher on the frontlines, he was a contributor to the classic work, The American Soldier.For much of his long and distinguished career at Cornell University (from 1946 to 1985, then emeritus from 1985 to 2003), he was a member of the Sociology Department. He served as chair of that Department from 1956 through 196l, and was appointed the Henry Scarborough Professor of Social Science in 1967. After becoming Professor Emeritus in 1985, Williams continued to teach at both Cornell University and the University of California, Irvine. His research fostered understanding of some of the most difficult problems of American society. He devoted much of his career and writing to studies of intergroup tensions, race relations, war and peace, ethnic conflict, and altruism and cooperation.
Dr. Williams was a Past-President of the American Sociological Association, Past-President of the Eastern Sociological Association, Founding Editor of Sociological Forum, and the Co-Chair of the Committee on the Status of Black Americans. Dr. Williams’ many awards and honors include the Commonwealth Award for Distinguished Service, the American Sociological Association’s Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award, and the Robin M. Williams, Jr. Distinguished Lectureship Award established by the Eastern Sociological Association.
His best-known works include The American Soldier (Vols. 1-11, 1949); Schools in Transition (1954); and What College Students Think (1960); The Reduction of Intergroup Tensions (1947); Strangers Next Door (1964), American Society: A Sociological Interpretation (1st edition, 1951; 2nd edition, 1960; 3rd edition, 1970); Mutual Accommodation: Ethnic Conflict and Cooperation (1977); and most recently, The Wars Within: Peoples and States in Conflict (2003). He was also a co-editor of A Common Destiny: Blacks and American Society (1989). He was the author as well of some hundred and fifty articles, monographs, and chapters in edited volumes.