Mayor McWilliams was born and raised in Atlanta, GA where he was deeply influenced by the Civil Rights Movement. Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s in the epicenter of the movement taught him many lessons about leadership and public service.
He witnessed firsthand the impact that Dr. King and Andrew Young had on the nation and their ability to galvanize communities. He developed a belief in uplifting communities through education, good business and strong public policy.
The election of Maynard Jackson, the first black mayor of Atlanta, inspired Al to one day run for office in order to educate and inspire others.
The son of a dental assistant and bus driver, Al aspired to one day become an attorney. He studied political science at Georgia State University and became the first in his family to graduate from college.
Al McWilliams Memorial Scholarship Fund
Al met and married Darlene McWilliams, the love of his life. Together, they raised five children, Annie, Allison, Albert III, Adam and Avery. He believed strongly in the power of families.
His essay, The Importance of Family Relationships in our Lives, was published in Urban Dreams: Stories of Hope, Resilience and Character (Hamilton Books, 2008),
In the essay, Mayor McWilliams wrote: "The positive impact of strong family relationships goes way beyond their impact on us as individuals. It extends to society in general...One of the reasons I wanted to become Mayor is to create a community with such strong families..."
Al was elected to the Plainfield City Council as Councilman At-Large in 1996. He ran for the Mayor's office soon after and was sworn in on January 1, 1998. He was reelected to office in 2001.
After he college, he attended the prestigious University of Michigan Law School where he earned his juris doctorate.
Al's career as a corporate attorney spanned nearly 30 years. He spent the majority of that career at Engelhard Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, as Deputy General Counsel and later as Director of Government Affairs. For a time, he was Engelhard's highest ranking black executive.
During his two terms as mayor, Al McWilliams initiated a number of economic development and public safety reforms. Under his leadership, Plainfield was chosen by NJ Monthly as a Top Ten Most Livable Cities. He is often credited for ushering in Plainfield's renaissance.