Students, when you hear about Grambling State University, most of the time, you hear about the band, the Orchesis and the football team. But you never really hear things about the people that made it somewhat possible for the things we have now.Do we all know our Grambling State University? Do we know some of the people who paved the way for us? Maybe we don’t, but there is so much to learn. Though I don’t know it all, I do know a little. I met a beautiful lady by the name of Mrs. Thelma Williams. She was one the nicest lady you could ever meet.
When I got word that I had to interview her, just the thought of it scared me. I thought I would never be intelligent enough to talk with history. I was very nervous, because I don’t know my GSU history, but it doesn’t hurt to learn.
When I pulled up to her house and stepped out of the car, Mrs. Williams greeted me with the biggest smile. At that moment, I felt right at home.
I had never met her before and was very interested in getting to know Mrs. Williams. In talking with her, I found that she has and still plays a huge role in Grambling State University.
Mrs. Thelma Williams arrived in Grambling on Oct. 1, 1956. As soon as she stepped off the trains, she said, it was extremely hot.
“I came in from West Virginia where it was very cold. When I stepped foot in Grambling, it was 86 degrees,” she said.
Mrs. Williams said she didn’t know where she was at first. “I thought I was coming to cowboy town,” she says while laughing. “But once I started to meet people, I felt very comfortable. It was truly a family here.”
“I was very fascinated with the students here at the university. They were so nice.”
She was very involved with activities that took place on campus. In watching Coach Eddie Robinson practice with the male athletes, she noticed that they were having trouble with pivoting their feet, so she decided that it would be a great idea to have them take modern dance classes.
Mrs. Williams is very bright and educated. Graduating from Morgan State University, she earned a degree in health, physical education and recreation, and minored in history. She was the first of many things here at GSU.
Mrs. Williams organized “The President’s Summer Drug Awareness Convocation” in 1988. The convocation was presented by the C.U.P.I.D. Drug prevention program. She also traveled to Washington, D.C. with the program.
She helped with the First Annual Fourth of July Celebration at Grambling State University. In November of 1993, she was the first speaker for the First Charles D, Henry/Pearl H. Vaughn Lecture Series, and she spoke at the Arbor House for Senior Citizens two weeks ago.
Mrs. Williams made her first Women’s Day Speech at Mount Olive, and was one of the first judges for the Calendar Pageant. The next year she choreographed the pageant and worked with the coronations at GSU.
She also participated in a play called, Fly, Blackbird, in Winston-Salem, N.C. The play was held by the Institute in Dramatic Arts, I.D.A,, and it featured two students from all black colleges in the country, in which Grambling State University had two students to participate in.
In speaking with Mrs. Williams, I came to find out that not only was she one of the first to play a role in GSU activities, but she was a very peaceful person.
Mrs. Williams explained to me that GSU was a very friendly place. The students could always go to someone of higher power with their problems and receive respect. Now, many people don’t listen to what students or other individuals have to say. Lots of voices are not heard.
“We need to all come together and be one,” she says. “Small groups and one on one makes a difference. We all should get to know one another. The problem with some of us is that we don’t respect each other as much. So what we all need to do is take the chips off our shoulders and realize there is nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree.”
In one of her many poems, she states, “Live with me and know me, then judge me.”
One of Mrs. Williams’ favorite quotes from the bible is “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. Another quote she also goes by is, “Be still and just listen.”
“What I think everybody has in common is that we are all human,” she adds.
I might not know all the history there is to know about GSU, but I do know that there is a very intelligent lady from West Virginia who knows an ample amount of Grambling History. She is a very, very generous individual, and students, if you have never heard the history of Grambling, please make it your effort to visit Mrs. Thelma Williams. She is and always will be a legend in my eyes!