According to reports, Sheila Vaden-Williams, the former president of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, died April 19. She was 55.
A Harvard-trained lawyer and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Fisk University, Vaden-Williams started her tenure at NAMAD as executive director in 1995. She became president in 2001 and served as the public face of the minority dealer group. She was a leader in the Largo, Maryland-based organization’s efforts to place minority entrepreneurs at the head of dealerships and was pivotal in doing this, especially with luxury and import-brand stores. She also led the organization in support efforts during the economic decline of the industry in the early 2000s and was a proponent of strategies and initiatives that would help keep minority dealers afloat.
She also helmed diversity awareness initiatives and sensitivity training with companies including BMW of North America, Jaguar North America, Mercedes-Benz USA, Volvo Cars of North America, Volkswagen of America Inc. and Audi of America Inc.
Lauded by Automotive News as one of the “100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry” in 2000 and 2005, she also led diversity training for the National Automobile Dealers Association and Automotive Trade Association Executives. Her expert insights on the industry were often included in publications including Black Enterprise, particularly for their BE 100s auto industry features.
Before leading NAMAD, she was an attorney with Vaden, Williams & Associates Inc.
In her spare time, according to reports, she volunteered with the ARC of Prince Georges County, Maryland, the West Point Parents Association of Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
She is survived by her husband, James Williams III, and three children.
Services for Vaden-Williams will be held at Zion Church at First Baptist Church of Glenn Arden at 3600 Brightseat Road in Landover, Maryland today, April 24. The Delta Sigma Theta Omega service will be held from 10 a.m. to 10:25 a.m. Viewing will be held from 10:25 a.m. to 11:15 a.m, and services at the Interment Maryland National Cemetery begin at 11:15 a.m.
“I consider myself successful when I go into my office and make sure that NAMAD achievers have win-win solutions for the manufacturers, ethnic minority dealers, suppliers and consumers,” she told Automotive News in a past interview. “At the end of the day, I come home and lay my head on the pillow and ask if I have made the world a little bit better—if I have, I’ve been successful.’