Nana William Ofori Atta (10 October 1910 – 14 July 1988), popularly called “Paa Willie”, was a founding member of the United Gold Coast Convention and was one of “The Big Six” detained by the British colonial government in Ghana (then Gold Coast). He later became a Minister for Foreign Affairs in the second republic between 1971 and 1972.
Nana William Ofori Atta was the son of Nana Sir Ofori Atta I who was the Omanhene (King) of Akyem Abuakwa between 1912 and 1943. He was thus a prince of royal lineage. William Ofori Atta attended the Mfantsipim School, one of the most prestigious schools in Ghana. He was later among the first batch of students at the Achimota School who pioneered the intermediate degree programs. He was also the first ever school prefect of the School. His batch of students went on to form the nucleus of the University of Ghana. He became a lawyer in 1956.
William Ofori Atta was a founding member of the United Gold Coast Convention. He later became the leader of the United Party in opposition to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. He was detained by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah during the first republic under the Preventive Detention Act. During the second republic, he was Minister for Education and then Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Progress Party government of Dr. Busia. He was an active member of the People’s Movement for Freedom and Justice (PMFJ) which campaigned against the ‘Union Government’ concept by General I.K. Acheampong, then Head of state of Ghana and Chairman of the Supreme Military Council (SMC). This was an attempt by the military regime to extend military rule instead of handing back power to civilians. After the fall of the SMC, he stood for president in the 1979 Ghanaian presidential election on the ticket of the United National Convention coming third with 17.41% of the popular vote. Eventually, he became chairman of the Council of State for the Third Republic.
William Ofori Atta became a devout Christian and played various roles in Christian circles. He was one of the founders of the Accra Chapel Trust, (now the Korle-Bu Community Chapel) an independent evangelical church at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra in 1967. Ofori Atta delivered the J.B. Danquah Memorial Lectures organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1985. His topic was – “Ghana, A Nation in Crisis”. He died in 1988 and was given a state burial.
The William Ofori-Atta Memorial Lectures were instituted in memory of Paa Willie after his death.