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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. 


Contribution to the Institution Award, Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, University of Richmond, 2021

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.


"Becoming the American community we should be--but have never been" with Melody C. Barnes. In "Community Wealth Building and the Reconstruction of American Democracy: Can We Make American Democracy Work?" Edited by Melody C. Barnes, Corey D. B. Walker, and Thad Williamson (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2020).

“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

Educators, advocates demand city intervention as 900 face prospect of eviction from public housing (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Sun., Jan. 9, 2022

Garrett Sawyer and Thad Williamson column: City Council should use the ARP to build community health and wealth in Richmond (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Sun., Sep. 12, 2021

The Daily Newscast: The removal of the city of Richmond's Robert E. Lee monument (VPM)
Thu., Sep. 9, 2021

A Salute to Mr. Williams (Style Weekly)
Fri., Jun. 18, 2021

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

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