Alewine: Judge Williams’ courage raised awareness of an unjust illness

November 7, 2013 

— Many in South Carolina were saddened this week by the unexpected passing of federal Judge Karen Williams. The Alzheimer’s Association extends its deepest sympathies to Charles H. Williams and the entire Williams family.

Karen’s life was a picture of devotion and fortitude. Not only did she graduate at the top of her class at the University of South Carolina Law School — she did it while raising a family. Not only was she nominated as the first female judge for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals — she became its first female chief judge. Not only did she fight courageously against Alzheimer’s disease — she shined a bright light on an illness that is still highly stigmatized.

Karen developed Alzheimer’s at a much younger age than is commonly associated with this disease. She was diagnosed at 57, at the height of her career and accomplishments. Alzheimer’s disease stole that away, but it cannot diminish her legacy.

My admiration for Karen knows no end. It is my hope that her public battle with Alzheimer’s will encourage others with cognitive loss to feel more comfortable about sharing their concerns and seeking treatment.

There are clear benefits to identifying Alzheimer’s disease early. Early diagnosis along with active medical management can significantly improve quality of life through all stages of the disease for diagnosed individuals and their caregivers. It also gives people a chance to participate in research and to plan for the future.

Alzheimer’s knows no social, economic, political or racial divides. Every 68 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s disease. Today there are as many as 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease. With 80,000 people living with Alzheimer’s in our state alone, its impact is felt widely by families and caregivers.

But there is hope. We have a National Alzheimer’s Plan, with a goal of preventing and treating Alzheimer’s by 2025. Researchers are close to promising treatments, but we need adequate funding and clinical trial participants.

The Alzheimer’s Association works to be a catalyst for change, advocating for the needs and rights of those affected by the disease. Help is available by calling 800-272-3900 or visiting

Cindy Alewine

CEO , S.C. chapter, Alzheimer’s Association


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