Mamie Luella Williams, prominent educator and a resident of Topeka, Kansas, was born in Greenwood, South Carolina on Dec. 12, 1894 and moved with her family to Topeka in 1989. They purchase a home on Quincy Street in 1900 where Mamie lived for 75 years. Mamie and her life were the subject of a 1976 TV special, 75 years on Quincy Street.
At age 16, Williams one of three African-American girls who graduated that year from Topeka High School. She went on to Washburn University, graduating with honors in mathematics and German in 1915. This time, she was the only African American student in her graduating class.
Upon graduation, she began her teaching career at Lane College in Jackson, Mississippi. With the aid of her father, she was hired by the Topeka Public School System in 1918 where she would teach for the next 42 years until her retirement in 1960.
During the summer months she returned to Lane College as professor of education in 1925, taught at Texas College in 1928-1930, and spent four summers at Columbia University in New York where she earned a “Teacher of Education” diploma in 1924.
Her tenure with the Topeka Public School System included teaching 25-1/2 years at Buchanan School before she was transferred to Washington School as Assistant Principal in 1943. She later became principal of both Washington and Monroe Schools before her retirement. In 1956 Mamie traveled around the world with the National Education Association promoting educational values and gathering information for presentations to students and local groups.
After retiring from the Topeka School System, Mamie remained active in church and community affairs. In 1965 she was appointed to the Kansas Commission on the Status of Women, served as a delegate to the 1971 White House Conference on Aging, and was active on the Senior Citizens Advisory Council for the Republican Party for Kansas, 1974-1976.
Other highlights of her career included the creation of the AAUW Mamie L. Williams Fellowship Award at Washburn University in 1968, receiving the Washburn University Distinguished Service Award in 1973, and receiving an honorary doctorate in mathematics from Washburn in 1982.
Williams encouraged her students to “be a miracle.” She died on Dec. 13, 1986 in a convalescent home in Topeka. She was 92. In fall 1996, Williams Science and Fine Arts Elementary Magnet School,
named in honor of Ms. Williams, opened its doors at 1301 S.E. Monroe, Topeka, Kansas.
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Kansas Black History Facts are compiled for The Community Voice by Donna Rae Pearson.