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William also lamented the 1996 law that established charter schools, calling them an “experiment on our children.” In later years, he was a leading voice calling for a moratorium on the establishment of new charter schools.

And after then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee began pushing reforms, he was among the skeptics who questioned not their veracity, but whether they could succeed without strong parental input and support at their backs.

Sure, William could seem contrary.

I told him as much the last time I saw him, at the Jan. 2 inauguration of new Mayor Vincent C. Gray. William and I hugged, exchanged New Year’s greetings and talked for a few minutes prior to the official undertakings.

“What’s up?” I asked, inquiring whether he still loved me because he wasn’t returning my phone calls or e-mails. “I know we don’t always agree.”

He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I still love you. I’ve just been busy. Call me.”

William lived his lot, and he bore it well.

Now that he has been called home, he no longer has to wrestle with politics or policies. But his legacy of social activism, whether you agree with his ideas or not, speaks for itself.

Rest in peace, dear William.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at