Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Education and Inspiring Teachers

BOND: These multiple schools you went to, what were they like? How did they differ, one from another?

WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, they tended to be new schools with new faculty. We had new buildings and my mother just thought new building, new faculty, this has to be good for my son. And then finally --

BOND: Was that always true?

WILLIAMS: It was always true. Every school I moved to was an improvement from the school I'd been in before, without a doubt. My mother was very canny about this and then finally at the last, I guess, four or five years of my elementary school, they became integrated schools.

BOND: Were there specific teachers in elementary and high school who encouraged you, somebody who stands out in your memory, somebody who affected you more than others?

WILLIAMS: Well, I have to thank two people that stand out. No. 1—Sister Mary Agnes when I was in Catholic school. She was a real stickler for you had to read and you had to read properly and you had to understand what you were reading and that, of course, fit very well in terms of what my mother was telling me at home and when I had this predilection to do myself and then the other person I think was my high school geometry teacher, Mr. Caldwell. Mr. Caldwell at Tilden told me, he says, "you know what, you have a real aptitude for math and science and you need to develop that." I'd never really thought that I had an aptitude for math and science and I thought I was a pretty good student, but he said "you are a special student, you need to study hard, push yourself as hard as you can," and that was inspirational to me.

BOND: And so you did that.

WILLIAMS: I did that.