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James Rennick Williams, president of Williams Brothers department store in downtown Lockport, died Thursday (Sept. 20, 2001) in his Lockport home after a brief illness. He was 77.

Williams was born in Lockport and lived most of his life here and in New York City.

A Marine Corps veteran of World War II, he graduated from Princeton University in 1947.

He began his career in retailing at B. Altman & Co. in New York City, where he met and married Joan P. Pettit.

Upon his return to Lockport in 1949, he and his father, Robert, acquired Williams Brothers Co., the family department store on Main Street founded in 1868.

Williams served as president of the company until 1974, when the store closed.

He was active in civic affairs and organizations in Lockport, serving as president of the Eastern Niagara Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club.

In 1971, Williams was elected president of the National Retail Merchants Association in New York City. He served in that office until 1990. During his tenure, he was successful in expanding the association's membership nationally and internationally. He presided over major retailing world conferences in London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Sydney and over the association's annual conventions in New York City.

Williams testified frequently on behalf of the retail industry before committees of Congress. He was also active in the development of the Princeton University campus store.

In addition to his wife, survivors include two sons, James R. of Cloverdale, Calif., and Robert M. of Buffalo; a sister, Margaret W. Dickinson of Chicago; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Services are private.

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