March 19, 1943 – April 16, 2018
John A. Williams had a passion for work, family, friends, and the City of Atlanta. John was a proud native Atlantan, iconic businessman, visionary and real estate mogul. Known as the “Apartment King,” John lived for work and took two successful companies public, shaping the multi-family industry into what it is today. The entrepreneur and leader, age 75, passed away surrounded by his loving family on April 16, 2018, following a brief illness.
Never one to forget his humble beginnings, John was born in Thomasville, Georgia to Bernard Wilmont Williams and Louise Smith Williams on March 19, 1943. His family then moved to southwest Atlanta, where he spent his childhood. John attended Southwest High School, from which he graduated one year early. He then put himself through Georgia Tech and graduated with a B.S. in Industrial Management.
John had a can-do attitude and never took no for an answer. He credited his success not to being smarter than anyone, but by working harder and putting in more hours than everyone else. At 26, John was working for Georgia Power selling power to apartment complexes in Metro Atlanta when he had a vision to transform traditional apartment communities by improving landscaping, security and professional management. In 1970, John founded Post Properties, Inc., a company he built from scratch to become the most recognized apartment brand in the industry at its time. He set the standard for high quality residential apartment home development, transforming the apartment industry and cityscapes around the country. After leaving Post Properties, John made lightning strike twice when he founded another company, Preferred Apartment Communities where he served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, taking the company public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: APTS). Over the course of his career, John directed and coordinated the development, construction, and management of more than $15 billion in real estate development. John was so proud of PAC, not only because of it’s incredible performance or the fact that it was his second public company, but because of its associates. John emphasized the importance of corporate culture, always pushing his associates to do their very best, get results and have fun.
John’s commitment to growth and involvement in the community ran deep and personal for him. His impact on Cobb County and the City of Atlanta was significant. John was a national leader in the urban development concept and was widely credited with coining the phrases, “Smart Growth” and “Live, Work, Play.” John received numerous awards and honors throughout his legendary career, including: the prestigious Four Pillar Award; "Entrepreneur of The Year," by both Stanford Business School and Ernst & Young; The Wall Street Transcript "CEO Award for Commercial Real Estate;” "CEO of The Year," by Financial World; National Real Estate Investor's list of "The 20th Century's Most Influential Developers;" Atlanta Business Chronicle's award for "Atlanta Residential Developer of The Decade;" Harvard Business School’s "Community Leadership Award;” and Cobb County’s “The Mack Henderson Public Service Award." John was inducted into the Multi-Housing News Hall of Fame; the Georgia State University J. Mack Robinson College of Business Hall of Fame; and, the Georgia Institute of Technology College of Management Hall of Fame.
John was the Chairman of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce twice and Chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. He served as the President of the Homebuilders Association of Metropolitan Atlanta, Chairman of the Metro Business Forum, Chairman of the Regional Business Coalition. John was instrumental in creating the Community Improvement District (CID), he is the Founder and past Chairman of the Cumberland Community Improvement District. He was the driving force in the creation of the Cobb Galleria Center and the transformation of Marietta Square. He was on the boards of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, Atlanta Regional Commission, and the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. John served as the initial Chairman of the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority Venue and Ballroom complex. He served as an emeritus board member at The Lovett School, which all three of his children attended. John served on the board of the Atlanta Falcons, of which he was a minority owner.
John’s generosity was as legendary as his work ethic. He was giving of both his time and resources. John’s philanthropic efforts benefited many organizations throughout the city. John was heavily involved with: Georgia Tech, The Lovett School, Piedmont Hospital, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – where gifts were typically made in honor of others. He was particularly proud of the completion of the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, the 2,800-seat theater and ballroom.
John was a member of Cherokee Town & Country Club, Piedmont Driving Club, The Georgian Club, the New York Yacht Club, and Peachtree Presbyterian Church – where he served multiple terms as an Elder and had significant involvement in the growth and development of the church.
John was an accomplished yachtsman, building several extraordinary sailboats, including J-Class yacht, Ranger - his pride and joy. John pioneered the modern day J-Class revival. He loved nothing more than spending time on the water with his family and friends while competing in and winning regattas all over the world. What brought John the most joy was sharing the regatta experience with countless others.
John had a remarkable gift for bringing people together. He truly cared about people and considered everyone family. John loved his family, his work family, his sailing family, his skiing family, and all the friends who he made feel like family. While John was an iconic real estate developer, entrepreneur, community man, and philanthropist; he is most remembered for his larger than life personality, contagious smile, competitive spirit, and emphasis on loyalty.
John is survived by his loving wife Nancy; son Jay (daughter in-law, Mary); daughter Sarah Brook (soon-to-be son in-law Paul Austin); son Parker; and grandsons Jack and Harrison. He was predeceased by his brothers, Wilmont Williams and Earl Nance. A Celebration of Life service will be held at Peachtree Presbyterian Church at 2:00pm on Monday, April 23, 2018. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Piedmont Heart Institute or the charity of your choice.
- John is survived by his loving wife Nancy; son Jay (daughter in-law, Mary); daughter Sarah Brook (soon-to-be son in-law Paul Austin); son Parker; and grandsons Jack and Harrison. He was predeceased by his brothers, Wilmont Williams and Earl Nance.
- Memorial Services Celebrating the Life Monday, April 23, 2018
Donald and Marliyn Tam Tam
April 23, 2018
Dear Nancy and Family, you have our sincere sympathy on the passing of John. We will always remember his warmth and welcoming smile whenever we saw him. He was always kind to us when we were in his presence and made us feel as if he were our friend instead of an aquaintance. We will not forget him, nor his goodness.
May God bless you and be with you during this time of trouble, giving you strength.
Sincerely, Rabbi Donald and Marilyn Tam
April 23, 2018
I had the great fortune of working for John at Post from 1986 to 1989. He was the most wonderful boss I ever worked for and he made all of his employees feel like family! With his commitment to excellence, amazing work ethic, competitive spirit, confidence, enthusiasm and genuine caring for others, he inspired me to be the best leasing agent I could possibly be. His good sense of humor, the twinkle in his eyes when he told a great story and his laughter, sometimes directed at himself, were all such beautiful qualities. He was a wonderful role model, amazing mentor, and loyal friend. He enriched my life by living his in the joyous way that he did so. John, with his big heart and sweet soul, was a blessing to all the many lives he touched. May his light and legacy shine on.
Gloria Curry Strickland
April 20, 2018
Nancy, Jay, Sarah Brook, and Parker - Words are not adequate to express my sympathy over the loss of your loved one. Just know that my heart and prayers are with all of you as you go through the days ahead without John.
I have had the pleasure of knowing John since I started to work for Post in 1976. Both of my brothers, Dwight Curry and John McConnell, also worked for Post. John developed the premier apartment company, and we all were so proud to say we worked at Post Properties.
John was a unique individual with a personality larger than life. I have many fond memories of working with John. I just can't imagine the apartment industry without him.
Blessings to all of you! John will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.
Gloria Curry Strickland