Gladys Irene Williams
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A Season of Birth and Youth
Gladys Irene Williams passed peacefully at home on Monday, February 25, 2019. She was surrounded by her loving sisters and caretaker. She was born in Perryman, Maryland on July 24, 1919, the sixth of twelve children born to the late Vandellia and Hattie Williams.
The Season of Study
Gladys attended Swan Creek Elementary School and graduated from the Havre de Grace Colored High School in Have de Grace, Maryland. She received a BS degree from Bowie State University (formally Bowie Normal College) in Bowie, Maryland, MA degree from Temple University and MA degree from New York University.
During her 42 years as an educator, she was a pioneer in desegregation of schools, restaurants and other places where Blacks were denied participation. It was a Sunday in Baltimore City during the mid - 1950’s. The leader of the small group of protesters picketing a restaurant that refused to serve black people handed the car keys to Gladys Irene Williams. There was a good chance the group would be arrested and sent to jail. The car was parked strategically near the site and, if the police moved in, Ms. Williams was told to jump in the vehicle and head back to Harford County.
They told me, “You have a job, you have to be at work Monday, you can’t afford to be arrested”, remembered the retired Harford County Public School teacher and counselor of those turbulent days when people of good will fought for the civil rights of all. “We weren’t arrested, so I didn’t have to drive that car – I’m not sure I knew how to drive it anyhow.”
For Gladys Williams, the sixth of Vandellia and Hattie Williams’ 12 remarkable children, the brush with the law was both typical of the extraordinary courage displayed by the family and exposed her to exceptional risk to advance the cause of those members of their race.
A Season of Worship, Work and Community Service
Gladys was a lifelong and faithful member of Union United Methodist Church. She accepted Christ at an early age. Gladys served as president of United Methodist Women for a number years, Chairperson of Program Resources, church school teacher and Director of Vacation Bible School. She was the District Chairperson of the Nominating Committee of the United Methodist Women. She was a member of Evening Star Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star since 1960, served as Matron ( 3 terms) Grand Lecturer for the state of Maryland District Deputy for District #7, Grand Trustee in the West, Vice-President and President of the Havre de Grace Chapter of the Association of Retired Persons. Gladys co-organized Harford County’s first Black Girl Scout troop and was its leader for 10 years, member of the inter-racial and interdenominational dialogue of Harford County, co-tester in opening restaurants, Equal housing, and Interracial and interdenominational Bible School, a 50 year member of the local and state Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. In 1965 she was an U. S, alternate delegate to The Hague on the celebration of its 50th Anniversary. She was a member of several civic organizations: Food & Nutrition Committee, Les Charmantes, AARP, Bowie Alumni, and the Freya Club.
A Season of Victory
Gladys leaves to cherish life and precious memories: her loving and devoted sisters Mary O. and Eva V. Williams of Aberdeen, Maryland; Mildred W. Batte of Sykesville, Maryland; Catherine W. Burks of Havre de Grace, Maryland; and one brother, Irving Williams (Elivira), Rockville, Maryland; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, god-children and friends.
She was preceded in death by her sister Ruth Stansbury and brothers; Percy V., Russell E. and Otto W. Williams
Gladys leaves a legacy and an inheritance of unshakeable faith, love, generosity, scholarship and wisdom.