Black History Month began Feb. 1, 2012, and will be celebrated through the end of the month, ending Feb. 29, 2012. The University of Arkansas Athletics Department begins its fourth year of recognizing the accomplishments of current and former Razorback student-athletes as well as other prominent students, faculty and staff with its web series on ArkansasRazorbacks.com. This year, the web series will feature stories of former Razorback student-athletes who have gone on to coaching positions in universities or colleges around the state and country. In addition, the series will recognize four Silas Hunt honorees.
For Marjorie Wilkins Williams, serving others has been a way of life for more than 50 years. Williams was one of the three black students first officially admitted as undergraduates at the University of Arkansas in 1955. Not only was Williams helping open the doors for numerous African American students to follow at the University of Arkansas, she was investing in a career that put her in a position to serve others on a daily basis.
Williams received her Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Arkansas in 1959 and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from Troy State University in 1972. In 1977, she earned a Master of Science degree in nursing from the University of Texas Health Science Center.
She worked as a professor of nursing for San Antonio College for 30 years, served on the School of Nursing faculty at Troy State University, and worked as a general staff and operating-room nurse.
Williams was a member of the Texas Black Professionals in Higher Education, Who’s Who in Nursing, Who’s Who in Nursing Education, and the Texas Black Nurses Association. She served as chairperson, Allied Health Division, Texas Community College Teachers Association. She has received the Excellence in Nursing Award and Alamo Community College Service Award. She enjoys reading, bridge, league bowling and traveling.
Williams is married to William Franklin Williams, also an alumnus of the University of Arkansas (M.S.E.’56). They have two children and two grandchildren. Williams is being honored as one of four recipients of the Silas Hunt Legacy Award, which recognizes African Americans for their significant achievements or contributions to the community, the state and the nation.
On Feb. 2, 1948, Silas Hunt became the first black student in modern times to attend a major Southern public university when he was admitted without litigation into the University of Arkansas School of Law. Hunt, who grew up in Texarkana, was a veteran of World War II and earned his undergraduate degree at Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Hunt died of tuberculosis in the spring of 1949 before finishing his law degree.
The Silas Hunt Legacy Award was created by the university in 2005 and first awarded in 2006. This year’s recipients were nominated and selected by a volunteer selection committee of University of Arkansas faculty, students, professional staff and former recipients. Williams and the other three Silas Hunt Legacy Award honorees, Dr. Roderick McDavis, C.C. Mercer and Nolan Richardson will be honored at a formal black-tie event in April.
Williams may not be as famous as some of her fellow Legacy Award recipients, but there is little doubt that her contributions have had a meaningful impact on the University of Arkansas, her profession and the thousands who have followed in her footsteps. While some fashioned their legacy in more high-profile vocations, Williams defined hers by simply remaining dedicated to her life’s calling. In the process, she helped improve the quality of life for countless individuals for more than a half-century.