Fallen Legal Heroes – Chief FRA Williams, QC, SAN, CFR

Chief F.R.A. Williams
Chief F.R.A. Williams

CHIEF FREDERICK ROTIMI ALADE WILLIAMS (16th December 1920 – 26th March, 2005)

Popularly called Chief F.R.A. Williams, he was a prominent Nigerian lawyer who was the first Nigerian to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

Chief Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams was born on 16th December, 1920 in Lagos.  He was named after his maternal grand-uncle, Rotimi  Alade Esq, who enrolled as a legal practitioner in 1892.  Chief F.R.A. Williams had his primary education, first at the Baptist academy, Lagos from 1927 – 1928, and later at the Methodist school, olowogbowo, Lagos from 1928 to 1933, from 1934 to 1938, he attended CMS Grammar School, Lagos.

In 1928, he was admitted into Selwyn College University of Cambridge where in 1942 he obtained a Bachelor of Arts Honour Degree. Between 1942 and 1943, Chief Williams qualified as a Barrister at law at the Grays Inn, London. He was awarded the Master of Arts Degree of Cambridge University in 1946.  Chief Williams enrolled as a Legal practitioner of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1943 and in recognition of his professional skill and experience as well as his brilliant advocacy, Chief Williams was made a Queens Counsel in 1958. In April 1975, Chief Williams SAN became the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

Chief Willams had several appointment and worked at several level of Government during his time, he was the Chairman of the Lagos City Council. He was appointed Minister of Justice and Local Government in the Western Region, acting Premier of Western Nigeria, Chairman, council of Legal Education, Lagos; Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Chairman, National Universities Commission.  member, Defunct Constituent Assembly 1978, and member, Body of Benchers, Nigeria Law School. He was also president, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) from 1959 to 1968.  He was made chairman of the 49 ‘wise’ Nigerians who constituted the Constitution Drafting Committee that fashioned out the 1979 Constitution. That constitution, till date, has continued to provide the guiding principles of subsequent constitutions, including the prevailing 1999 Constitution. Williams however faulted the 1999 Constitution as a “false document,” because of its numerous inherent contradictions.

He possesses the Distinguished Law Award of the Mohammed Bello Endowment in Jurisprudence.  He was also awarded the Commander of the Niger, and in 1978, he was conferred with the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR).  His honorary degrees included Doctor of Laws, University of Ibadan, 1975, and doctor of Laws, University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), 1976.


On Saturday, March 26, 2005 Chief Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams, passed on at the ripe age of 85. With his death, Nigeria lost a foremost lawyer, nationalist and statesman, and until his death, one of the oldest lawyers in the country. As far back as December 1987, he had in fact been the most senior practising lawyer in Lagos State and the number one legal practitioner in Nigeria. His was a case of one with a most natural flair for law, blended with a total commitment to the pursuit and application of legal knowledge to contemporary issues.


 Adenike Adesanya is a Brilliant young wig who is passionate about preserving the legacy of the legal profession. Nike wishes to bring back to our memories our heroes past. Email to Nike: ni_key06@yahoo.com

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