“It’s been so long since I have heard his name, I thought since “ole massuh Bush” left the White House, Armstrong had retired close to his beloved cotton on the plantation singing his favorite song, ‘ole massuh, I is heah’”—A Williams critic’s Internet comments.
Back in the day, Armstrong Williams proved to be “one of the most recognizable conservative voices in America.” He possessed a pugnacious and provocative style, and stayed Williams was “on point” when expressing his viewpoints. Most importantly, he provided conservatives and Christians with what they longed to hear. In the 1990s, Williams’ colloquies regarding Black Americans, received national attention by pointing out that high percentages of African-Americans actually hold conservative views. Williams also noted that “political leaders dupe Blacks and persuade high numbers of them to swap their votes for Democratic handouts.”
Today, after hitting some bumps along the road, Williams is back on the national scene with a new book that talks about his current attitude and perspective. He still considers welfare as “a new plantation system” and decries America’s obsession with race. Chronicling his personal journey through purgatory, the conservative African-American political commentator has written, Reawakening Virtues: Restoring What Makes America Great. In his new book, Armstrong Williams calls for “a renewal of basic virtues that have gone by the wayside in today’s world”. Drawing on his upbringing in South Carolina, Armstrong discusses pertinent issues such as the sanctity of life and the virtues of capitalism. In the 190-page book, Williams discusses traditional virtues from a Christian perspective and ultimately argues for a revitalization of American society, politics and culture by updating the values of our founding fathers and bringing them into the 21st century.
It was that “conservative” and “Christian” persona that got him in trouble in the first place. In 2005, Armstrong Williams acknowledged that he was paid $240,000 by the U.S. Department of Education to promote its initiatives on his syndicated television program and to other African-Americans in the news media. That disclosure of payment set off a storm of criticism from Democrats over the Bush administration’s spending to promote its policies to the public. According to the contract with the Ketchum Agency, a public relations and marketing firm that had the contract with the Department of Education, Williams was required to broadcast two one-minute advertisements in which Education Secretary Rod Paige extolled the merits of its national standards program, No Child Left Behind.
Neither Ketchum’s contract with the Department of Education or Williams’ role to promote Secretary Paige and No Child Left Behind were new to the way business is done in Washington. While no other contractors who participated in the deal were chastised, Armstrong bore the brunt of public criticism. He told the New York Times that the substantial, negative media he had received was due, at least in part, to his being African-American. He said, “The liberal elite despise Black conservatives. I am a conservative who does not know his place. If I were White, they wouldn’t care.”
Williams has a lot to share with readers. He has strong Black bona fides undergirding his current perspectives. A 1981 graduate of historically-Black land grant South Carolina State University, Williams is a third-generation entrepreneur and Republican who was reared on the family’s South Carolina tobacco farm with nine other siblings. Williams’ conservative leaning have served him well among other African-American trailblazers. Throughout his career Williams has had friends in high places. Armstrong Williams served as a Special Assistant to Clarence Thomas when he was the Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Williams started his broadcasting career in 1991 at WOL, Radio One’s flagship station. In 1995, Williams’ local show was syndicated by The Talk America Radio Network. By 2002 Williams rejoined Radio One Inc. hosting a monthly primetime television special on the TV One cable network.
A combination of his faith and travails, Armstrong Williams uses Reawakening Virtues: Restoring What Makes America Great to discuss a conservative code of conduct that illustrates his strong character.
(William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org.)