Longtime Daily Business Review vice president Sookie Williams, who retired four years ago after 42 years with the company, died Wednesday night in her sleep. She was 101.
After spending 34 years as vice president of legals for Miami-Dade, Williams was a confidante of judges, lawyers, financiers and real estate brokers. Her career tracked the growth of the South Florida legal and real estate trade publication as well as the region itself after moving to Miami in 1946 as a widowed mother.
A tireless networker who politely pulled people aside for quiet chats to share confidences, she promoted the DBR throughout the legal community and served as a liaison to the judiciary, court administrators and bar associations.
Williams also was a booster for women in law and a mentor to female judges and attorneys, helping found the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. She also served as a talent spotter in the legal profession, pushing the late Colson Hicks Eidson partner Ervin Gonzalez to pursue bar leadership roles.
Herman Russomanno of Russomanno & Borrello in Miami called Williams a goodwill ambassador and said she was “in fact was the heart and soul of the Miami-Dade legal community.”
“Sookie had a heart of gold,” he said. “There is no doubt that Sookie left an indelible mark. We will forever be indebted to Sookie for her tireless contributions and dedication to the legal profession.”
Despite her lay status, she was a recipient of a prized Legal Legend award in 2011 from the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Historical Society. The Dade County Bar Association also named a community service award in her honor to recognize exemplary service to the legal community.
Former DBR publisher Chris Mobley worked with Williams for 14 years and recalled learning much from her.
“Sookie was not afraid to speak truth — her truth — to power,” Mobley said in an interview when she retired. “We didn’t always see eye to eye. But I soon learned to trust her wisdom.
Williams loved attending legal functions where the calories could add up quickly. Asked years ago what her secret was for keeping weight off, she matter-of-factly replied, “I eat small portions.” The banquet regular skipped proffered desserts and preferred a dinner roll instead, often for the ride home.
Williams kept many nights free for ballroom dancing and was a favorite dance partner of the late U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Palermo. In that vein, she preferred heels to flats into her 90s. She also stayed fit with pilates.
Before joining the DBR at the request of then-owner Lee Ruwitch, she worked a string of jobs including secretary, waitress at the legendary Wolfie’s Deli, supermarket manager and bookkeeper for a Lincoln Road dress shop.
Services were set at 12:30 p.m. Monday at Temple Judea at 5500 Granada Blvd. in Coral Gables. Burial will follow at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery at 1125 NW 137th St. in Miami.