Secretary Wayne Williams finds future and past in Little Rock

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams visited Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 2017, where nine black school children made history in 1957 during a nationally watched battle over integration. (Wayne Williams photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams often tells the story of how the high school he attended once shut done rather than integrate, and during a technology conference in Arkansas this week he got to see where the public showdown first began.

At the conference, Williams also got to ride in a self-driving vehicle and heard from the “Elliot Ness of cyber crime.”

As for the school, a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering the integration of public schools was met with hostility. In Little Rock, nine black students were denied entrance to all-white Central High School, forcing a very public conflict between President Eisenhower and the Arkansas governor.

Wayne Williams in high school.

At Warren High School in Virginia, where Williams graduated in 1981, the school board decided to close the school rather than allow blacks to attend, which is why there was no graduating Class of 1959.

Williams said the area was still mired in backward thinking when he first attended school, which created an economic decline in the town, which is why he first got involved in politics.

“When I was 17 years old I gathered a group of friends together and we passed out literature to everyone walking into a polling place,” Williams often tells young leaders. “And through that we were able to change the power in my area from one party to my party. So I understand the importance of youth involvement.”

Williams now serves on the board for the Statewide Internet Portal Authority, or SIPA, created to be Colorado’s single most comprehensive delivery channel for electronic government services. The portal operates through a public-private partnership between the state and Colorado Interactive to help Colorado government entities web-enable their services. Colorado Interactive builds, operates, maintains and markets Colorado.gov and is part of digital government firm NIC’s family of companies.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams jokes that the Clinton presidential library has a chair jfor him.

Williams attended the NIC conference in Little Rock with two other SIPA folks, Jack Arrowsmith, the former clerk and recorder in Douglas County and now SIPA’s executive director, and Simon Tayofa, who also serves on the board and is a senior director for Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The conference kicked off with a reception at the William J. Clinton Library & Museum, complete with chairs for former President Clinton’s cabinet. Williams got a kick out of sitting in the chair marked “Secretary of State.” He also met with his counterpart, Mark Martin, the Arkansas secretary of state.

Among the speakers at the NIC conference was Chris Tarbell, often referred to as the “Eliot Ness of cyber-crime.” He talked about his past experiences with the FBI and other partners to identify ways to combat current cyber criminals. Conference-goers also heard from NIC’s chief security officer, Jayne Frieland Holland, about the trends she and her team are experiencing to keep sites and digital services secure.

Earlier this month, Gov. Hickenlooper’s official website received a Gold and Silver award for Social Media and Government Agency websites from Horizon Interactive Awards, a leading international interactive media awards competition.

Secretary Wayne Williams rode in a self-driving car during a conference in Little Rock.

The site was built in collaboration with Colorado Interactive over a five-month period on a platform designed specifically for use by Colorado government entities, according to a news release announcing the award,” Hickenlooper stated.

“We are honored that our website received this recognition and are grateful to our partners, the Statewide Internet Portal Authority and Colorado Interactive, for their work on this innovative site.”

The 15th annual, international competition saw more than 1,200 tries from around the world including 40 out of 50 American states, and 20 countries including Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Taiwan, Ukraine and Uruguay.