Thelma S. Williams: Grambling’s historian

Thinking of influential women in society, some turn to Harriet Tubman, Michelle Obama, or Oprah to give appreciation to during this month. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t forget to appreciate women here in the community who nurture us when we rarely notice it.
From a simple smile from the janitor in the hallway, to encouraging words from your hardest professor, these women impact our lives.

Thelma Alice Smith Washington Williams is one of these influential women who lives in the Gramblingcommunity.
This Charleston, W. Va. native has been leaving her impression on Grambling since Oct. 1, 1956 when a job opportunity teaching Health and Physical Education brought her to then Grambling College.

Upon her arrival, she experienced Southern hospitality.
“I was invited to Coach Rob’s where I had my first taste of red beans and rice,” Williams said.

Experiences such as this, helped Williams decide she wanted to ensure that everyone who comes to Grambling has a pleasant experience like she had.
Starting with her students, she was determined to leave her mark of merit.

“I taught Black History before it was required,” she proclaimed. Taking pride in making sure that her students knew the Negro National Anthem, history behind Negro spirituals, among other valuable history that cant be bound to pages, she constantly educated.

Explaining how the stories in song were prevalent, she shared with me the undertone to a Negro Spiritual ‘Deep River’. “Since the slaves knew the lay of the land, they were able to be led to freedom,” she shared.

“We can go back [in history], but show how it is leading forward.”

Documenting the many different experiences that she has encountered, she began taking pictures and visiting homes. Within eight months, her experiences became a book that can be checked out right here in the campus library, “Grambling: A pictorial history” was born.

When asked about her involvement in any organization, she shared that she is a part of many organizations on paper, such as The AARP, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and a host of advisory boards. But she prides herself in not limiting her service to just those organizations.

“Women in the community use to be more involved, but [it seems] we have separated,” stated Williams.

“No matter what the organization, they were all friends.” She went on to share.
She commented on the state of our nation by proclaiming that we have become a selfish nation, with ‘I’ & “My” instead of “We” and “Us”.

Nonetheless, Williams never has never stopped believing in her fellow man. “People make a difference, we just have to believe in self.”

“My family is wrapped up in rendering service,” Williams declared. With her many accomplishments, she has definitely kept up the family intent.

This month when showing appreciation to those women that impact many lives, remember Thelma Alice Smith Washington Williams, for she is to be appreciated.