A member of Duke Ellington's trumpet section for several years in the mid- to late '40s, Williams spent most of his career playing in big bands. Williams played trumpet in his high school band, then with trombonist Frank Terry's Chicago Nightingales for several years in the '30s. He moved to New York in 1940 and worked with pianist Fats Waller's big band. In the years before joining Ellington, Williams played with Ella Fitzgerald, Claude Hopkins, and Machito, among others. Williams played with Ellington from 1945-1949, and again in 1951. In the '50s, he worked with Latin bands and pit orchestras. He played with Earl Coleman from 1959-1962, then spent several more years playing Broadway shows. In the '70s, Williams gigged and toured with Clyde Bernhardt; he also played solo dates overseas and worked with both the Harlem Blues & Jazz Band and Panama Francis' Savoy Sultans.