Some people see differences as scary and something to be avoided, while others see differences as an opportunity to grow and learn. That was Cora Lee Williams. She loved growing in her understanding of others.

To Miss Cora, as she was affectionately referred, differences should never be used to divide us, and she spent her life trying to convince others that those who were different than us deserved our respect and fair treatment.

2020 King Heroes: These Local Heroes Helped Make a Way for Others –

Miss Cora settled in Salina to raise her family and Salina was never the same. For a while, she worked as a child care teacher but in 1984, at just age 50, she was forced to retire early due to physical limitations. But Miss Cora didn’t go home and sit down, she turned her full energy to organizing, handing out assignments, ordering, borrowing, twisting arms, manipulating and grabbing any situation with her strong hands and willing it to do what she wanted.

Where she went, she was a driving force, but her drive genuinely came from her desire and determination to right wrongs.

She served her community through the Commission on Aging, the Housing Authority Board, Disability and Access Board, the Black American Citizens Organization of Salina, the MLK JR, AD Hoc Committee, and her beloved NAACP, Salina Branch, where she was the branch president from 1995 to 2001.

In January 1997, word spread that the KKK was planning a march in Salina in protest of the King holiday, so Mrs. Williams organized and led a non-violent community resistance. She coordinated town hall meetings, engaged merchants and civic organizations, and raised the social consciousness and education of Salinans to show the world that messages of hate were not welcome in Salina.

The benefit of this open dialogue would last for years to come, much longer than a one-day counter-protest.

While president of the Salina NAACP, Mrs. Williams raised funding to start the NAACP tutoring and counseling program in 1997, an after-school program at Sunset Elementary School to provide tutoring, academic enrichment, mentoring, and was picked up by USD 305.

We’re sorry to report that Miss Cora passed away on Jan. 1, 2020.

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...

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