The Skinner Leadership Institute was founded in 1992, by Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, former Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus, and her late husband, the Reverend Tom Skinner, former Harlem, New York gang leader. The Institute evolved from Tom Skinner Associates, the organization founded in 1964 by Tom. Barbara and Tom, are also the co-founders of the Congressional Black Caucus Prayer Breakfast, which annually attracts over 3,000 religious and civic leaders from across the nation. In June 1994, Tom passed away. Yet, his legacy and the work they began together continues through Skinner Leadership Institute and through the lives of leaders who are making a positive difference in our world today.
Tom Skinner was one of the most powerful messengers of the 20th century. Thousands of people have had their lives changed as a result of exposure to his unique message of hope, renewal, reconciliation, and personal motivation. He took the message of Christ's love to every continent in the world and to more than 70 different countries. This message spanned every age and cultural group. He spoke to children and young people with the clarity that he spoke to mature adults. He spoke to white Americans with the same passion and intensity that he spoke to African Americans. Tom Skinner was indeed a bridge builder. His powerful message of reconciliation broke down walls dividing age, economic status, race, and religion.
Tom Skinner was born and raised in Harlem in the city of New York. As a former street gang leader, his life was radically transformed by the power of God. He brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to his teaching. He traveled the world over to counsel with leaders in government, business, sports and education. For over eight years, he served as the chaplain to the Washington Redskins football team. He also served as team motivator for the New York Yankees, the New York Giants, and the New York Jets.
Unsatisfied with the injustice of the educational system, Tom established a high technology learning center which served over 300 inner city youth and adults in Newark, New Jersey. God's investment in Tom has born much fruit as people who were taught and inspired by him are now teaching others. Those who have experienced the transforming power of love, through over thirty years of Tom's ministry, have become agents of God's love in communities throughout this nation. Tom passed in June 1994. Yet, his legacy continues through the work of Skinner Leadership Institute; through his writings, video and audio messages; and through the lives of leaders who are making a positive difference in our world today.
From an early age, Barbara Williams was committed to turning her anger about injustice into advocacy for the poor and vulnerable. She was born in Antioch, California, and raised by a single parent mother, the low-income family of nine, in Richmond, California. She learned the importance of participating in decisions impacting families like her own by volunteering with the Richmond area NAACP (Youth Section). Helping her mother pass out literature for local candidates committed to protecting low-income families instilled the importance of advocacy for the vulnerable that became a part of her life. The first in her family to attend college, she organized students at San Francisco State University to tutor low-income youth at the Hunters Point, California Neighborhood House where the then Berkeley City Councilman Ron Dellums, served as Director.
While enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) program, she supported the Black Panther Party's Saturday Breakfast program for low-income children. She completed her Master's Degree in Social Work at University of California Los Angeles (U.C.L.A) and on graduation became a student at the U.C.L.A. Law School. In a 1960 take-over of the Chancellors's office, she negotiated funding for a newly created U.C.L.A. Black Law Journal, where she and her colleagues published articles from activists’ lawyers on empowerment of the poor through the legal system. Following graduation from U.C.L.A. School of Law, she became Chief of Staff to California Congressman Ron Dellums. Soon after the Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus. For many years, Dr. Williams-Skinner was the Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, DC, made up of the African American members of the United States Congress.