I've been fortunate to know Walter Williams ever since I began my Ph.D. studies at George Mason University in the mid-1980s. He is a very good economist, but his real value is as a public intellectual.
He also has a remarkable personal story, which he tells in his new autobiography, Up from the Projects. I've read the book and urge you to do the same. It's very interesting and, like his columns, crisply written.
To get a flavor for Walter's strong principles and blunt opinions, watch this video from Reason TV. I won't spoil things, but the last couple of minutes are quite sobering.
I suppose a personal story might be appropriate at this point. My ex also was at George Mason University, and she was Walter's research assistant. Walter would give multiple-choice tests to students taking his entry-level classes and she was responsible for grading them by sending them through a machine that would "click" for every wrong answer. For almost every student, it sounded like a machine gun was going off. Suffice to say, Walter's classes were not easy.
So while I'm glad to say he's my friend, I'm also happy I never took one of his classes.