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Dr.  Thad  Williamson
Dr. Thad Williamson
Associate Professor of Leadership Studies and Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law

Dr. Thad Williamson is a sought-after professor and civic activist. His research focuses on the intersection of theories of social justice and public policy, particularly as applied to urban politics and economic policy.  He writes regularly on current issues for a wide variety of popular and scholarly publications.

A recognized community leader on poverty reduction efforts in Richmond, Williamson served as the first director of the city’s Office of Community Wealth Building (OCWB) while on leave from the University during the 2014–15 and 2015–16 academic years. The OCWB is charged with implementing a comprehensive poverty reduction initiative encompassing education, employment, housing, and transportation. In December 2015, it was ratified as a permanent city agency. The OCWB has been recognized nationally (including grant support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation) as a promising municipal model for tackling systemic poverty in urban communities.

Williamson previously served as a member of the mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission and principal author of the commission’s final report and as co-chair of the Maggie L. Walker Initiative for Expanding Opportunity and Fighting Poverty. 

Following the November 2016 municipal elections, Williamson served as transition director for Mayor-elect Levar Stoney. Between January 2017 and June 2018, Williamson served as senior policy advisor in the Mayor’s Office in a part-time capacity, while continuing to teach at the University. In that role, he led the development of the RVA Education Compact, a systematic collaboration between the Mayor’s Office, School Board, and City Council to address the needs of schools and families in Richmond, as well as the establishment of a new Performance Management Office within the city’s Department of Budget and Strategic Planning.

He is currently engaged in two research projects. The first focuses on community wealth building as a national policy paradigm capable of developing practical solutions to long-standing, racialized inequalities of wealth and power that have undermined democracy in the United States. The first major publication from this project, Community Wealth Building and the Reconstruction of American Democracy: Can We Make American Democracy Work?, which Williamson co-edited with Melody C. Barnes and Corey D. B. Walker, was published by Edward Elgar in October 2020.

The second is a book-length study of contemporary Richmond, in collaboration with Dr. Amy Howard, assistant vice president of community initiatives and the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond. The book will assess the role of leadership in addressing the city’s most pressing problems during the past generation.

Williamson’s previous academic work focuses on the application of contemporary theories of social justice to political and economic institutions. Williamson co-edited (with Martin O’Neill) and contributed to Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond, published in 2012 by Wiley-Blackwell. Other books include Leadership and Global Justice, co-edited with Douglas A. Hicks and published by Palgrave Macmillan Press, and Sprawl, Justice, and Citizenship: The Civic Costs of the American Way of Life, published by Oxford University Press.

Williamson serves on the boards of Richmond Opportunities Incorporated (serving Richmond public housing residents) and the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation (serving RPS students and schools). He is a reviewer for numerous academic journals and university presses and a series editor for the Jepson Studies in Leadership book series. He also is serving as president of the University Faculty Senate for the 2020-21 academic year. 


LGBTQIA Faculty Ally of the Year, Lavender Graduation Committee, University of Richmond, 2020

Servant Leader Award, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, 2019

Distinguished Educator Award, University of Richmond, 2012

Selected Publications

Community Wealth Building and the Reconstruction of American Democracy: Can We Make American Democracy Work? co-edited with Melody C. Barnes and Corey D. B. Walker (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2020).

Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond, co-edited with Martin O'Neill (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

Leadership and Global Justice, co-edited with Douglas Hicks (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

Sprawl, Justice, and Citizenship: The Civic Costs of the American Way of Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Making a Place for Community: Local Democracy in a Global Era, co-authored with David Imbroscio and Gar Alperovitz (New York: Routledge Press, 2002).


“Who Owns What? An Egalitarian Interpretation of John Rawls’s Idea of a Property-Owning Democracy.” Journal of Social Philosophy 40 (2009): 434-453.

“The Good Society and the Good Soul: Plato’s Republic on Leadership.” Leadership Quarterly 19 (2008): 397-408.

“Sprawl, Spatial Location, and Politics.” American Politics Research 36 (2008): 903-933.

“Local Policy Responses to Globalization: Place-based Ownership Models of Economic Enterprise,” Policy Studies Journal 31 (2003): 231-252.


“Beyond Sprawl and Anti-Sprawl.” In Jonathan Davies and David Imbroscio, eds. Critical Urban Studies: New Directions. (New York: SUNY Press, 2010).

“Leadership and Political Traditions, I: Conservatism, Liberalism, and Civic Republicanism.” In Richard Couto, ed. Political and Civic Leadership: A Reference Handbook. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2010).

“The Challenge of Urban Sprawl.” With David Imbroscio and Gar Alperovitz. In Nancy Kleniewski, ed. Cities and Society. (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005).

In the News

Richmond Public Schools: Keep Kamras (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Mon., Jan. 25, 2021

Opinion: Come together: The nonpartisan Richmond Together forms to hold elected officials and ourselves accountable (Style Weekly)
Tue., Sep. 29, 2020

Voices: The new Richmond busy being born (The Cheats Movement)
Sun., Jul. 19, 2020

'Dramatic change will require leadership': A message to the next generation of leaders (Diverse Issues in Higher Education)
Tue., Jul. 7, 2020

Opinion: Pulling together (Style Weekly)
Thu., Apr. 23, 2020

Corey D.B. Walker and Thad Williamson column: Economic development after Navy Hill -- embrace democracy (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Mon., Feb. 17, 2020

5th District candidate Thad Williamson talks to VPM News (VPM)
Thu., Sep. 26, 2019

Opinion: Moving forward: The Fox-Cary school pairing proposal is what our children need and deserveĀ (Style Weekly)
Tue., Aug. 13, 2019

U Of R professor is first potential candidate for Richmond City Council seat (NPR - WCVE)
Tue., May. 7, 2019

Thad Williamson column: On the road to organizational improvement (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Wed., Apr. 24, 2019

Opinion: A response to an opinion piece criticizing Mayor Stoney's budget argues that city spending is not vastly disproportionate and we need to make hard choices (Style Weekly)
Tue., Mar. 19, 2019

Mayor Levar M. Stoney Announces Administration Appointments
Fri., Jan. 20, 2017

Opinion: Three Life Lessons You May Not Expect From Bob Dylan
Tue., Oct. 25, 2016

Williamson Column: Mayoral Campaign
Mon., Aug. 29, 2016

Field Notes: Stoney's Education Platform
Wed., Aug. 10, 2016

How Did We End Up Here? (Richmond Magazine)
Thu., Jul. 28, 2016

Opinion: Why Tim Kaine is a Smart - and Progressive - Pick for Vice President (In These Times)
Wed., Jul. 27, 2016

Opinion: For VP, Kaine a bold choice (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Mon., Jul. 25, 2016

Can concentrated wealth relieve concentrated poverty? (Washington Post)
Fri., Nov. 7, 2014

The former capital of the Confederacy's all-out plan to fight poverty and confront its past (Washington Post)
Tue., Sep. 2, 2014

Thad Williamson: The man driving the city's anti-poverty initiatives (RVA News)
Tue., Jun. 3, 2014

Mayor names University of Richmond professor to anti-poverty post (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Wed., Apr. 16, 2014

Reality check (Style Weekly)
Tue., Mar. 18, 2014

Opinion: Will Obama's words on inequality be backed by deeds? (Al Jazeera America)
Thu., Dec. 12, 2013

Opinion: Mandela sought balance between capitalism and socialism (Al Jazeera America)
Mon., Dec. 9, 2013

Opinion: Remarkable leadership (Inside Carolina)
Wed., Nov. 20, 2013

Williamson named co-chair of mayor's anti-poverty initiative
Thu., Aug. 8, 2013

Opinion: Seven habits of civically engaged human beings (Tikkun Daily)
Fri., Mar. 15, 2013

Opinion: Take real steps to reduce Richmond's poverty (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Mon., Feb. 18, 2013

Opinion: Improving Richmond city school performance (Style Weekly)
Tue., Feb. 5, 2013

Opinion: The cost of a society with no safety net (Style Weekly)
Wed., Dec. 12, 2012

Opinion: The new majority: The 2012 election results have shaken old assumptions about the contours of Richmond politics (Style Weekly)
Tue., Nov. 13, 2012

State senator switches endorsement in council race (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Thu., Oct. 25, 2012

Williamson discusses poverty in Richmond (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Mon., Oct. 15, 2012

Williamson writes on N.F.L. leadership and calls for resignation of league commissioner (The New York Times)
Wed., Sep. 26, 2012

Bike-race bickering must stop (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Fri., Sep. 14, 2012

Opinion: Small change: Has Obama accomplished anything of genuine significance for the city of Richmond?
Tue., Sep. 11, 2012

Williamson: Four bad arguments against the NCAA's Penn State ruling (and one good one)
Wed., Jul. 25, 2012

Williamson writes on Richmond's school rezoning process and the need for good leadership
Wed., May. 30, 2012

Richmond city public schools and budget recommendations
Tue., Apr. 24, 2012

Williamson comments on plan to sell public housing
Mon., Mar. 26, 2012

Professor opines on free expression of ideas (Style Weekly)
Thu., Mar. 15, 2012

Leadership studies professor comments in USA Today on stereotypes
Fri., Feb. 17, 2012

Why the Occupy movement won't go away (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Fri., Nov. 4, 2011

Williamson opines on solving Richmond's poverty problem (Style Weekly)
Tue., Oct. 11, 2011

Williamson writes on power in the Richmond region
Tue., Jul. 12, 2011

Williamson's book on sprawl reviewed
Mon., Jun. 20, 2011

Williamson comments on Richmond mayor at midterm
Wed., Feb. 16, 2011

Ph.D., Harvard University 2004
Political Science
M.A., Union Theological Seminary 1998
A.B., Brown University 1992
History and Religious Studies
Contact Information
134 Jepson Hall
(804) 287-6542
(804) 287-6062 (Fax)
Areas of Expertise
Urban Politics and Sprawl
Community Economic Development
City of Richmond Politics
Sports, Justice, and Ethics