June 7, 2024 at 1:35 p.m.
Updated June 7, 2024 at 1:35 p.m.

Williams, Clay R.

It is with profound sadness that the family of Clay R. Williams announces his passing on January 14, 2024.

 Clay was a distinguished attorney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who had a great passion for music, knowledge and the outdoors. Clay is survived by his beloved wife of almost 40 years, Jeanne Williams, and his four children: Gwynne Williams, of Portland, ME, Amie Williams of Athens, Greece, Sarah (Fred) Pescatore of Berkeley Heights, NJ, and Dan Williams of Evergreen, CO, and his four grandchildren: Caleb, Conor, Jordan, and Seth. 

Born on September 25, 1935, in Milwaukee, WI, the son of Marguerite and George Williams, Clay’s love of music was evident throughout his life. After graduating Riverside High School in Milwaukee, he studied music at Lawrence College. He embraced a variety of music, from classical music and opera, to jazz and folk music. Over the course of his life, he mastered playing an incredible number of instruments. He began playing piano at the age of three, often at the Linden Methodist Church, the town where his family homesteaded on a farm in 1847. He played the banjo, ukelele, trumpet, cornet, french horn, trombone and tuba (as well as being a virtuoso duck caller). He was an accomplished singer in several choirs, and sang bass in the a cappella group The Psurfs at the University of Michigan Law School. He loved playing the piano and guitar, inspiring friends and family to sing along. 

Clay earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan. After graduating law school, he was admitted to the Wisconsin Bar and became a United States Air Force Captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps. in 1960. In 1963, he returned to Milwaukee where he joined the law firm of Gibbs Roper & Fifield, later to become Gibbs, Roper, Loots & Williams, now a part of von Briesen & Roper, where he remained Senior Counsel until his passing. 

He was also admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Military Justice, the federal district courts in Wisconsin and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He chaired the Blue Ribbon Wisconsin Bar Committee, which drafted and helped pass a revised Wisconsin Corporations Law and the then new Wisconsin Limited Liability Company Law. In addition, he chaired the Wisconsin Bar Association Task Force on the Creation of a Business Court. He was an active member of the American Law Institute (Life Member), the Fellows of the Wisconsin Bar Foundation, the Fellows of the American Bar Association Foundation (Life Fellow), the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Milwaukee Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the New York City Bar Association, the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers and the Federation of Regulatory Counsel. He twice received the Wisconsin Bar Association’s President’s Award of Excellence. 

Clay was actively involved in his community. He served on the Board of Junior Achievement USA, the Shorewood School Board, the Kenwood Methodist Church, and the Milwaukee Ski Club. He was also a member of the Milwaukee University Club, the Milwaukee Club, the Milwaukee Athletic Club, the River Tennis Club, Ducks Unlimited and the Canuski Skiers Club. 

Clay was a dedicated skier until the age of 82. He took his children and wife Jeanne on skiing trips out West, picking a new adventurous locale every year. He later skied his beloved Taos, New Mexico back-country almost every day of the season. He was also an avid fisherman, hunter and squash player. His life was enlarged by a succession of retrievers he raised, and helped them endure the rigors of the hunt of the ducks and geese they sought. After moving to his farm with his wife Jeanne in Spring Green, WI, returning to his family roots in the area, he enjoyed the hunting and consumption of deer with his family. He made a wicked chili, which he would always serve with a sharp Wisconsin cheddar. Clay also loved a good book while listening to his music, and engaging in lively debates with friends and family. 

One of Clay's favorite places in the world was his cabin on the shores of Wolf Lake in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He cherished the time spent there with his wife, children, grandchildren and family friends, catching fish, reading books, singing songs with his family while playing his guitar, and enjoying the sweet melodies across the lake from “Clare de Loon.” 

Clay Rule Williams will be remembered for his unwavering dedication to his profession, his love for music, and his remarkable mind and spirit. He leaves behind a legacy of passion, discipline and hard work, and love for his family. He will be deeply missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. 

A gathering to honor and celebrate Clay's life will be held at 2 p.m. on June 15, 2024, at Arthurs Supper Club in Spring Green, WI. In lieu of flowers, Clay requested that memorial gifts be made in his name to the American Players Theatre in Spring Green, WI, or the Salvation Army. Information for memorial gifts can be found at americanplayers.org/support/giving and salvationarmyusa.org/usn/ways-to-give/.