Williams was born in Durham and went to Durham High School. He then attended UVA graduating in 1955 with a BS in Architecture. He was in the Army from 1956-58.
He did graduate work at Duke in 1958, then worked for Marion Ham, where he had previously interned. He stayed there his entire career, designing East End Elementary, Henderson Towers, and the original Hollow Rock Racket and Swim Club, among other projects, taking over the firm in the 1980's as R. Wade Williams Jr,. AIA. He retired in the 1990s.