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Marion Coates Williams

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Marion Coates Williams was born into a loving Christian family, where moral and spiritual values were taught by precept and example. At an early age, her parents helped her weave a path for her future designing educational opportunities as an end result.

The first hurdle along this path was completed when Marion graduated from Flint Northern High school in 1939. Continuing along the path, she entered and graduated from Flint Junior College (now Mott Community College). She immediately enrolled at Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan, and graduated two years later with a Bachelor of Science degree. Mrs. Williams earned a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

In the fall of 1943, Marion was hired as a classroom teacher for the school district of Flint, giving her distinction of being the FIRST BLACK CLASSROOM TEACHER in the Flint school district.

In 1950, Marion Coates was united in marriage with T. Wendell Williams, and they became the proud parents of three lovely children: T. Wendell, Jr., Helen Rochelle, and Karen Marie. She is also grandmother to five precious grandchildren.

The late T. Wendell Williams was the first BLACK member of the Flint Board of Education. A pediatrician by profession, Williams Community School and Education Center is named in his honor.

Mrs. Williams joined Vernon Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church with her parents at an early age. The family became an integral part of African Methodism, not just at Vernon, but throughout the connection of African Methodism.

She remains active at her church, and serves in many capacities, as organist and pianist, Adult Sunday School teacher, Treasurer of the Steward Board, member of the Stewardess Board, and is active in the Women’s Missionary Society.

Marion Coates Williams has made a positive impact on the teaching profession, giving tirelessly her time and talents. She was a classroom teacher for several years and then was Director of the Follow-Through Project, designed to give every child the opportunity to learn and develop to his or her highest potential, a highly successful project for the Flint schools. Currently, she is a mentor in the Host Program at Northwestern Community School.

Mrs. Williams shows keen interest in community organizations. She is a life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority; a member of Delta Kappa Gamma Society; member of Church Women United, the National Council of Negro Women, the Pierians, and the Links.

Among Mrs. Williams’ most cherished honors and awards: Family of the Year from Flint Chapter Jack and Jill; Music Award—Religious Academy, Vernon Chapel; NAACP Youth Recognition Award; Honored by Vernon Chapel AME Senior Choir; Honored by Williams Community School; and, in 1989, received the Distinguished Fellow Award from the Northern High School Alumni Association.

Mrs. Williams’ philosophy is that you can best serve God by serving others.

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The T. Wendell Williams Story (For Students)

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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
(December 1988)

The T. Wendell Williams Story

Family Life

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.

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