Aaron Williams grew up in south side Chicago to a family of modest means. After graduation from Chicago Teachers College (now Chicago State University), he entered the Peace Corps in 1967 as a volunteer and served for three years in the Dominican Republic. Upon his return, he became a Peace Corps minority recruiter in Chicago. Subsequently, he earned an MBA from University of Wisconsin.
Over the past decades, he has served as Senior Official at the U.S. agency for International Development (US AID) achieving the rank of career minster in the Senior Foreign Service. His work with the Peace Crops primarily centered in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated him to be the Director of the Peace Corps – a position he held from 2009 to 2012. Prior to his work with the Peace Crops, Williams worked with the Research Triangle Institute International from 2003 to 2009, where he was vice president of international development. In 2012, he returned to RTI International in the capacity of executive vice president of the International Development Group.
Williams generously volunteers his time to non-profit organizations, and has been involved with The Council on Foreign Relations, the Ron Brown Scholar Program, CARE, and the Institute for Sustainable Communities.