This is a story about a Black pioneer in the city of Flint, Michigan, who shared his well thought-out dreams with his family, friends, community, and country. Dr. Williams, a humanitarian, was extremely sensitive to the needs of children; a man of dignity whose visions were realized.
His contributions as a citizen prompted me to research and share this story with the students enrolled at T. Wendell Williams Community School.
The aspirations and goals Dr. Williams set for himself, at a very early age, will serve to motivate the doubters and dreamers at T. Wendell Williams School.
As the history of this great American is carved, my desire is that each student will develop a sense of pride in their school and their community, while simultaneously learning to become precipitators, motivators, and educators for tomorrow’s endeavors.
-Dorothy Hitss-Robinson, Principal
The T. Wendell Williams Story
Wendell Williams, the second of five children, was born on June 29, 1922, in the college town of Due West, South Carolina. Williams, a teacher, were devout Christians who instilled a sense of pride, compassion, honesty, self respect, and love of family in their children. He had three brothers: Asbury T., George and Joseph, and one sister, Helen Blanche.
Due to the Great Depression, there was not a lot of money in their household, yet the environment flourished with ingredients essential to strong character development. The ministry work of his father required moving the family from city to city every few years. T. Wendell, as a result, attended several schools in the State of Michigan.
Childhood and Teenage Years
While living in Battle Creek, Wendell walked ½ mile to school each day and carried a humble lunch of biscuits with peanut butter and bologna. The family was later determined eligible for subsidized meals, and he then received hot lunches at school.
Wendell enjoyed school and was a good student, doing his homework with the encouragement and support of his parents. They stressed the importance of obtaining a good education. All of the Williams children graduated from college. The close relationship Wendell shared with his mother was evident in the caring and sensitive manner in which he interacted with his brothers and sister – encouraging them and being supportive of their endeavors.
Wendell’s hobbies were playing checkers and working with model airplanes. He liked sports too. As a junior in high school in Ypsilanti, Michigan, he was the first Negro to try out and make the swim team. One day while swimming in a lake, Asbury developed leg cramps. Wendell, a strong swimmer, was able to rescue his brother and tow him to safety. Wendell also was active in the Boy Scouts.
A man of vision, Wendell clearly understood the value and importance of the dollar. He possessed the ability to save money even under adverse conditions. Like most children, Wendell found ways to make money to buy some of the things he wanted. He delivered flyers door to door and sold newspapers, earning only ten or fifteen cents for a day of work. Wendell also worked as a carryout clerk for an A & P Grocery Store in Flint, and even as a show shine boy. He later earned a good job by first volunteering his services for 8 hours a day in exchange for an apprenticeship in a clothes pressing plant. Reluctant at first, the owner soon found Wendell to be extremely dependable, and industrious worker, and very proficient at pressing clothes. The owner then offered Wendell employment and he worked and saved money to defray the expenses he would incur in pursuing a higher education.