ORANGEBURG, SC — Karen Johnson Williams, a native of South Carolina who rose to become the first female chief judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 4th Circuit, died Saturday morning after a battle with early onset Alzheimer's disease. She was 62.
Williams, a 1972 graduate of Columbia College, was appointed to the Fourth Circuit by President George H.W. Bush. She was the first woman to serve as chief judge in the Fourth Circuit.
She retired in July 2009 as chief judge as she revealed she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.
After her retirement, Williams returned to her hometown of Orangeburg to the family law firm. Her family rallied for her, advocating for a cure and treatment for Alzheimer's. disease.
In a 2010 interview, Williams said, "I come to the office. Sometimes, I play with the dogs; sometimes I with the children." Her family has raised thousands of dollars on behalf of her.
Williams taught school before earning her law degree at USC. In 1992, at the age of 40, she was appointed to the federal bench. In 2005, she made President George W. Bush's short list for a U.S. Supreme Court opening.