Donnie Williams hails from Savannah, Georgia, USA. Before embarking on his journey in martial arts and acting, Donnie served in the United States Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, stationed with the 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam.
During his Navy service, particularly when not deployed to Vietnam, Donnie devoted his spare time to learning Karate. He dedicated five hours a day to honing his Karate skills. Following his military tenure, Donnie continued his Karate training, actively participating in tournaments.
Donnie's proficiency and confidence in martial arts catapulted him to win numerous titles and awards, ultimately earning him the prestigious title of Grandmaster and a 10th Degree Black Belt.
In 1969, he played a pivotal role in co-founding the Black Karate Federation (BKF) in Los Angeles. The BKF aimed to encourage Black individuals to participate in the predominantly white karate tournament circuit at that time.
It was through his involvement in Karate that Donnie Williams ventured into the world of movies. Casting agents, having approached the BKF, enlisted Donnie for an uncredited role in the Bruce Lee film, "Enter the Dragon" (1973). In this film, he bids farewell to his student "Williams," played by fellow black martial artist Jim Kelly, as the character departs for Hong Kong.
In this interview, Black Belt's Tony Parrish talks with Donnie about his legacy and work.