The Association of African American Museums is saddened to inform you of the passing of one of our own, William Billingsley on Tuesday November 7, 2017. William (Bill) Billingsley was an initial builder, stalwart protector, and elder statesman of AAAM- beloved across our membership. It was a life well lived, and we will miss him dearly. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this time of loss.
He was a dedicated, volunteer executive director of the Association of African American Museums (AAAM). He came to AAAM in 1997 under the leadership of John Fleming after the dissolution of the previously formed African American Museum Association. Billingsley was a major part of the re-incorporated AAAM. His management of the organization during its formation helped to solidify the development of AAAM, alleviating board members of the day-to-day operations. Bill oversaw AAAM’s national and annual conferences, the organization’s major activity at that time. His position with AAAM was supported by the Ohio Historical Society, the managing organization of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, where Bill began his museum career as operations manager, later as assistant director and ultimately as acting director and museum manager while still working as AAAM’s executive director.
It was because of Bill that AAAM became the family of museums and museum professionals that we enjoy today. He treated everyone with dignity, respect and friendship. At the 2011 conference in Tallahassee, Florida, Bill was recognized with the Volunteer Service Award and given the title of Executive Director Emeritus.
Finally, at Fleming’s urging, Bill attended the 2017 conference in Washington, DC to participate in an oral history project on the leadership of AAAM. He had recently undergone major surgery but that did not stop him from traveling and wanting to join in the conference— if only for one day. We remember him as he was, perched at the entrance to the Washington Capital Hilton. The flock of members that gathered around him was indicative of the love and respect we had for him. Bill’s family would like his colleagues to know how much he loved AAAM and how much the family has appreciated the expressions of sympathy they are receiving from the AAAM family.
Personal condolences can be sent to 780 Mt. Vernon Drive, Xenia, Ohio 45385. Services will take place this Saturday, November 11 at First United Christian Church, 626 N. Columbus Street, Xenia, OH 45385. Viewing begins at 11:00 a.m. followed by the funeral at noon. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Cancer Society in Bill Billingsley’s name. You can visit his life legacy page here.