In 1988, as a high school senior, Raphael Davis-Williams and several of his fellow African American classmates joined forces to create a new student club at his predominately white Houston, Texas high school. The purpose of the Student Alliance Club was two-fold: encourage minority students who felt overlooked, left out, and marginalized to join and actively engage in extracurricular school activities; and also to provide a space for their white classmates to learn more about black culture. Even at the young age of 18, Raphael had already learned that achieving genuine racial equity and inclusion never happens organically or naturally, but requires focused, thoughtful, intentional action.
The spark of Raphael’s high school activism ignited his lifelong mission to level society’s playing field for the marginalized, the oppressed, those discriminated against for no other reason than their race, gender, orientation, economic status, or religion. As a television news reporter in the 1990s and early 2000s, Raphael routinely fought against perpetuating racial and economic stereotypes in on-air news reports. Instead, he insisted on sharing the stories of forgotten communities while also demanding the predominately white and male levers of power in television news act affirmatively to improve the quality of these valuable and valued lives.
Raphael earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1992 in Radio/Television/Film from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. He was the first ever African American to win the Dan Rather Scholarship, established by Sam Houston’s most famous alumnus, journalist Dan Rather. Between 2004 and 2006 Raphael completed all required course work, absent a final thesis, for a Master of Liberal Arts degree with a concentration in Government from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 2010, Raphael earned his J.D. from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. During law school Raphael served as Executive Editor of The Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, was a member of the Black Law Students Association, OUTLaws, and was a Federal Bar Association/Columbus Chapter Scholarship winner which provided him the opportunity to complete a judicial externship in the chambers of the Honorable Algenon L. Marbley, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio. Raphael also interned for the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s office as well as for the House Majority Caucus Counsel in the128th Ohio General Assembly.
Right out of law school, Raphael began working as an associate attorney in the civil rights litigation practice of Spater Law Office. In 2012, Raphael and his law partner, Sandy Spater, founded The Law Office of Spater & Davis-Williams, LLC. For nearly a decade following Mr. Spater’s untimely passing, Raphael worked as a solo-practitioner. As a plaintiff’s civil rights attorney, Raphael litigated federal court cases on behalf of women sexually harassed on the job, people of color denied housing or employment because of their race, folks mistreated while in the care and custody of law enforcement, and people burdened with physical or mental injuries who simply wanted full access to world in which they live.
Prior to joining the staff as Director of Equity and Inclusion, Raphael served nine years on the Board of Directors for the ACLU of Ohio. As an ACLU of Ohio board member, Raphael served eight years as Associate General Counsel and also served on the Executive and Nominating Committees. He was also a founding Board Member and served as Cooperating Attorney for the Central Ohio Fair Housing Association. Raphael also served on the Board of Directors, including one term as Board President, for the Kaleidoscope Youth Center, the only organization in Ohio dedicated to providing a safe, welcoming, and affirming space for LGBTQ+ youth ages 12-20.