TALLAHASSEE — For Florida A&M University (FAMU) alumnus Travis Williams, growing up in Fort Lauderdale, and seeing how the poor were “abused by the criminal justice system” inspired the public defender to want to work to prevent injustices from occurring.
“I see this job as the best way to prevent (these injustices) even though it’s only one case at a time in my small section of the world,” said Williams, a senior attorney at the Hall County Public Defender’s Office in Gainesville, Ga.
Williams’ passion was recently noted in a documentary called Gideon’s Army, which will appear on the HBO cable network later this year. Williams was approached after a few short interviews to be a part of the documentary, to which he admits he reluctantly said yes.
“I was a little nervous at first to have a camera crew invade my personal and professional life but then I reconsidered,” he said. “I wanted to make sure there was an enthusiastic voice for justice portrayed in the film.”
The documentary follows Williams and two other public defenders based in the South. The film focuses on the struggles of working as a public defender, and issues dealing with difficult cases, managing the workload and the act of balancing a personal life.
Williams recently returned from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where the film premiered. “I was blown away,” he said of viewing the documentary. “It is weird seeing yourself on the big screen but overall, I was satisfied with the way I was portrayed.”
Williams earned his bachelor’s degree from the FAMU School of Business and Industry in 2005, and his juris doctorate from the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. While at FAMU, Williams was a freshman and sophomore senator and served as an escort for the Royal Court during his sophomore year.
During his freshmen year, he was awarded the Freshman Senator of the Year Award.
In 2011, the Georgia Association of Circuit Public Defenders recognized the young attorney as the inaugural Assistant Public Defender of the Year. In 2012, he was also honored as one of 14 “Rising Lawyers Under 40” in Georgia by the Daily Report, a newspaper for lawyers in Georgia.
“I will always owe FAMU everything,” said Williams. “FAMU taught me that if I work hard enough, anything is possible.”