About Row 7

In 2008, at the age of 35, Jason ran for Orleans Parish District Attorney. He was the youngest candidate and unlike the other candidates, he had never worked for New Orleans’ longtime District Attorney, Harry Connick. Jason Williams knew New Orleans needed a break with the oppressive practices of a bye gone era. Although a political newcomer, his popularity quickly grew in communities tired of the same-old criminal justice system failing a city still recovering from the catastrophic devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Jason was a popular candidate in the small-but-growing progressive circles in the city, but he lacked the fundraising capabilities of the other two candidates, Ralph Capitelli and Leon Cannizzaro. New Orleans was not ready for Jason’s progressive ‘smart on crime’ platform and voted for Leon Cannizzaro and his ‘tough on crime’ agenda. But Jason’s 2008 run for District Attorney was not for political gain, it was because for 15 years he has sincerely believed that we need to transform New Orleans’ criminal legal system into an instrument of progress, not an instrument of oppression. So he re-focused on representing and advocating for people from our city’s marginalized communities, doubled down on his pro bono work with Innocence Project New Orleans, and considered where he could best help re-make the dysfunctional systems he saw. Jason was privileged to be in the inaugural class of the Norman C. Francis Leadership Institute, where fellows are immersed in principles of radical leadership and substantive public service from nationally-renowned coaches and professors. Jason carries one of its key lessons with him every day: striving to be an adaptive leader, open to discovering new strategies and policies in a transparent way that can yield better results rather than being tied to past practices out of habit or for the sake of tradition.