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Mothers Of Murdered Offspring Founder And Anti-Violence Activist Judy Williams Dies

Judy Williams
Courtesy Jon Strayhorn / Mothers of Murdered Offspring
Judy Williams

Judy Williams, who turned the pain of losing her goddaughter into a Charlotte nonprofit aimed at preventing violence and helping families of homicide victims through grief, died Saturday after battling lung cancer.

Known as a passionate and outspoken anti-violence advocate, Williams founded Mothers of Murdered Offspring in 1993 after her goddaughter, Shawna Hawk, was raped and strangled to death by a serial killer who took the lives of 11 women in total before he was arrested.

MOM-O founders Dee Sumpter (left) and Judy Williams.
Jon Strayhorn / Mothers of Murdered Offspring
MOM-O founders Dee Sumpter (left) and Judy Williams.

As Hawk’s mother, Dee Sumpter, and Williams both struggled to make sense of the brutal death, Williams encouraged her friend to start a support group for families of murder victims.

"At that point, we were trying to figure out what do we do with this pain?" Williams told WFAE in 2019. "How do we help our friend who was in so much pain?"

Together, they formed MOM-O. The organization began holding candlelight vigils for homicide victims and their families — it held two in the past week for victims in another deadly year in Charlotte — and supporting education initiatives aimed at resolving disputes peacefully. Last year, Charlotte had 107 homicides, its most deadly year since 1993.

That was the year MOM-O was formed, when Charlotte had 129 homicides — the most in the city’s history.

"We were like everyone else during that year, we were watching the numbers go up and weren’t doing anything, and then it knocked on our door," Williams said. "It’s time to answer it and you either answer it and do something about it or you answer it and continue to sit on the couch and watch TV, which is what we were all doing because it hadn’t affected us. And most people are that way — they don’t get involved until it knocks on their door."

The organization's slogan became "End the madness, stop the sadness."

Williams was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in 2019. In an interview then with WFAE , she said that she hoped, above all else, to be remembered as “part of the solution.”

"I hope that people will remember that Ms. Judy cared, that I would do whatever I can for you whenever I can do it, no matter what," Williams said an interview last year. "I hope that they will remember that we all have the ability to love and care for another human being. Charlotte is my hometown. I want people to know that this is still a good city.

"Yeah, we’ve gotten some bad elements in it and people have made some bad decisions, but overall Charlotte is a wonderful place. And my legacy will be to help people who want to come here to know that, people who live here to make it better because we all have a responsibility in wherever we are to make it better. I want to always be a part of the solution and never the problem. And that’s what I was: a part of the solution."

Jodie Valade has been a Digital News and Engagement Editor for WFAE since 2019. Since moving to Charlotte in 2015, she has worked as a digital content producer for NASCAR.com and a freelance writer for publications ranging from Charlotte magazine to The Athletic to The Washington Post and New York Times. Before that, Jodie was an award-winning sports features and enterprise reporter at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. She also worked at The Dallas Morning News covering the Dallas Mavericks — where she became Mark Cuban's lifelong email pen pal — and at The Kansas City Star. She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University and a Master of Education from John Carroll University. She is originally from Rochester Hills, Michigan.