Elizabeth S. Williams, 89, Baltimore County educator


Elizabeth S. Williams, a retired Baltimore County public school administrator and former teacher who helped integrate county schools, died of Alzheimer's disease Monday at Good Samaritan Nursing Center. She was 89.

Miss Williams, the daughter of a steel worker, was born, raised and lived almost her entire life in Sparrows Point. She was a 1935 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and earned a bachelor's degree in English, French and math from what is now Morgan State University in 1939.

Because African-Americans were excluded at that time from attending graduate schools in Maryland, Miss Williams attended New York University, where she earned a master's degree in administration and supervision.

In 1945, she began teaching French, English and math at Bragg High School in Sparrows Point until the school was converted to an elementary school three years later.

The school's principal, Charles W. Fletcher, and many of the instructional staff, including Miss Williams, were transferred to Sollers Point Junior-Senior High School, which opened in 1948 in Turners Station.

At Sollers, she was promoted to vice principal and remained there until 1964, when she was appointed director of summer school programs for Baltimore County schools. In 1966, she became administrative assistant to the deputy superintendent of schools, a position she held until retiring in 1979.

"From 1948 to 1964, she provided inspirational guidance, leadership, and counsel to thousands of young African-American boys and girls as they progressed along their educational journey. She was a role model without equal, setting the highest standards for her young impressionable student body," wrote Jerome Watson in a history of Turners Station published by the Turner Station Heritage Foundation.

"Her mastery of the English language, meticulous appearance, commanding presence, and insistence on excellence were hallmarks of her stewardship at Sollers," he wrote.

"Miss Williams was a great civil rights advocate and with Charlie Fletcher, they were leaders in integrating their school in Southeastern Baltimore County a year after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision," Robert Y. Dubel, a former schools superintendent, said yesterday.

"I was always very fond of her. She was a very efficient and delightful lady who could pull people together. She brought a calming and rational approach during the movement for integration," he said.

While attending the 50th anniversary reunion of the first class to graduate from the "colored high school" Miss Williams recalled how proud she was of the students who mounted the platform to receive their diplomas.

"I remember every single one of them," she told The Sun in 1999. "They had a desire to learn. They were about the nicest children I ever taught. I am so proud of them, so very proud."

Gaywood S. McGuire Jr., a member of the Class of 1961 at Sollers and a retired college instructor, described her as being a "very stern" teacher who worked diligently to help her students "accomplish their goals."

"She always had a superlative relationship with her pupils, professional associates and friends. Her students and associates were No. 1 one under her auspices," Mr. McGuire said. "Her students included the late Walter Statham, the first deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration; Kweisi Mfume, who became a congressman; and A. Dwight Pettit, the Baltimore attorney."

John Thomas Cunningham, who taught social studies and English at Sollers, recalled Miss Williams as being an "outstanding writer and speaker who was always very positive in her thinking."

Her desire to be an educator was driven by her "love of kids," said her sister, Cheryl E. Fleming of Turners Station.

She was a member of the Epsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the Maryland State Teachers Association and the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals.

She was also a member of the National Council of Negro Women and the American Association of University Women.

Miss Williams was a longtime member of Union Baptist Church of Sparrows Point, where she sang with the junior and intermediate choirs and was active in the church's Sunday school and the Baptist Young Peoples' Union.

She was an avid reader and world traveler.

Services will be held at 9:30 a.m. today at Sharon Baptist Church, 1373 N. Stricker St.

In addition to her sister, she is survived by several nieces and nephews.


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.