Remembering Burnetta B. Williams
When I first met Burnetta Williams 30 years ago, I could tell there was something special about her. She exuded a quiet power and confidence that gave me the feeling she could handle big jobs. And how!
She was a brilliant, results-oriented leader who took on the most challenging tasks with humility and grace. Her passing on December 13 is a loss to FedEx and the many lives she touched along her journey.
Burnetta joined FedEx in 1982 as a manager in the corporate finance department and moved steadily up the management ranks. On New Year’s Day in 2007, she became corporate vice president and treasurer of FedEx Corporation, responsible for financing the capital needs of our organization, including our planes, trucks, and everything else we needed to grow our business. She was also in charge of the design and development of methods of risk management programs, as well as cash management and treasury operations of FedEx business units.
Burnetta came to FedEx well-prepared to play a key role in an industry that was changing the way the world works. She had earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Yale University and a master’s degree in finance from the Sloan School of Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and had previously served as an investment manager at The Equitable Life Assurance Society of America in New York City.
Throughout her career, Burnetta continued to raise the bar of excellence for herself and inspired others to do the same. All the while, she remained humble, compassionate and caring of others. Having grown up in the South Memphis Cleaborn Homes housing projects, she understood the importance of channeling success into service. She provided hands-on career guidance to young people and served on numerous boards, including The LeBonheur Foundation; Girls, Inc.; Dixon Gallery and Gardens; Partners in Public Education; the Greater Memphis Arts Council; and the Riverfront Development Corporation. Burnetta was a founding board member of Triumph Bank and had served as financial secretary of Jack & Jill of America. She gave generously of her time as a volunteer to Junior Achievement and Memphis City Schools.
As Burnetta continued to make her mark in business and community service, the business world took notice. Her numerous awards and honors included Dollars & Sense magazine’s Outstanding Business and Professional Award and two FedEx Five Star Awards. She was a graduate of the 1993 Leadership Memphis Class and received the “She Knows Where She’s Going Award” from Girls, Inc. in Memphis. In 2008, she was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Finance by Treasury & Risk magazine, and in 2011, she was listed among Savoy magazine’s the 100 Most Influential African-Americans in Corporate America. Her achievements have also been cited in The Banker, Grace, Ebony and Black Enterprise magazines.
Burnetta Williams was an inspiring leader who gave her best to FedEx and her community. Her light will continue to shine in our hearts and memories. Our prayers and thoughts are with her husband, James; her son, Christopher, and her entire family.