Guest Columnist

“Hello, welcome to Highlights.”

These were the words I used to introduce myself to the Grambling family every week from 1973 to 2009 on a radio show of that name I hosted on KGRM radio. That was a period that helped me to better know the strong historical connection between Grambling State University and the greater community extending way beyond Grambling.

Thelma Smith Williams

With this knowledge, today, I’m back. Since I came here in 1956, it seems since 1991, every three to five years we go through a special event called “Another President.” 

The recent selection of a new president reminded me that I have been here to meet and know all the presidents of Grambling State University.  In fact, from 1957 to 1961, every Wednesday I drove Charles P. Adams, the first president, around the campus.

At that time, we did not have all of the houses and paved streets that you see today. Downtown had an odd-colored dirt street which I later learned was red iron ore. I have to admit it was a beautiful color to me.

Another thing I recall: Our first mayor, Benny T. Woodard, did not waste any time getting heavy equipment trucks in action to pave Main Street. This street improvement started from what was considered the back of the campus, behind the building we then called the Women’s Gym – where the school met the north part of the community at College Street. Today, that building houses the Eddie G. Robinson Museum.

You entered my office from the stage in the Women’s Gym, which also served as an auditorium for special events. I have to admit, nobody came to the building. You guessed: The recently built (Men’s) Memorial Gym was the athletic facility pride of the campus. Being a native of West Virginia, I often reflect on my first year in the Deep South. My plan was to stay two years, then move to North Carolina. Oops. 

I used all of the words above when I could have just said, “I love Grambling.” Some of us have been here to meet every president and much progress in between – from Negro normal to college to university. 

As I think about the reason I am writing this, the one thing I truly wish we could/would do, is accept the fact we can agree or disagree and still be friends. That powerful word “choice” is still alive, but not well around here. 

I do have a request. Do you think we can discuss and not fuss? Do you think we can agree or disagree and still be friends? Personally, I know we can. 

We are famously known around the world for a great football team. But we are more than that. We can be known for greatness in other things we do at GSU – if we just remember we win some and we lose some.

It seems education, Grambling’s primary purpose for being, sometimes suffers because we can’t agree on something.  As a result, our children become the losers. Sadly, the education of the next generation seems to suffer every time we have to bring on a new president.

All I pray for and ask is you write down your suggestions, send them to the president’s office, and discuss them with others. In doing so, let’s keep our comments as discussion, not arguments.

Keep in mind, when I came to Grambling the word “team” was powerful. Grambling people working as a “team” is what made this community and the university that became known worldwide. Let’s bring back the word team and make it mean something for today.

Personally, I would love to think we have that same spirit today – you know, like the one we have when we win.

Most of all, cooperation, discussion and respect are part of the rules. When a position (president) is filled and representing me, I work with them and pray they are successful. Believe it or not, it makes all of us look good when it succeeds.


Thelma Smith Williams, known to many as Thelma Alice Smith Washington Williams, is a retired Grambling State University Laboratory High School teacher. Before that she was a professor of physical education at what was then Grambling College. Having done extensive research on both, she is recognized as an authority on the Grambling community and university history. In 1980, she published a book titled Grambling: A Pictorial History.