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Sun, 12.15.1918

Jamye Coleman Williams, Educator, and Author born

Dr. Jamye Williams

*Jamye Coleman Williams was born on this date in 1918. She was a Black educator, administrator, and community (church) activist.

Jamie Coleman was from Louisville, KY; her father was an A.M.E. preacher, and her mother a poet and musician. In 1938, Williams graduated with honors in English from Wilberforce University. She received her M.A. in English from Fisk University in 1939. Coleman married McDonald Williams, a professor of English, in 1943. The couple had one daughter, Donna. For the next two decades, she taught at Edward Waters CollegeShorter CollegeMorris Brown College, and at her alma mater, Wilberforce.

She completed her Ph.D. in speech communication in 1959 at the Ohio State University and immediately joined the faculty of Tennessee State University. After being promoted to full professor of communications in 1973, Williams became head of her department and served until she retired in 1987. Williams made contributions to rhetorical studies, a field long dominated by the study of white male orators. Her dissertation—A Rhetorical Analysis of Thurgood Marshall's Arguments Before the Supreme Court in the Public-School Segregation Controversy—was published by the Ohio State University in 1959. With her husband, she published a collection of speeches and addresses by African American orators in 1970, titled The Negro Speaks The Rhetoric of Contemporary Black Leaders, that brought together the work of African Americans engaged in Black freedom struggles.

Leadership

During her academic career, Williams took on leadership roles within the A.M.E. Church, serving as a delegate to the A.M.E. General Conference in 1964 and becoming a board member of the National Council of Churches in 1968. Williams became the first woman to behold a general office in the A.M.E. Church. In 1984, Williams was appointed editor of The A.M.E. Church Review, an established literary journal, and served in that position until 1991. Williams was a mentor for other women in the church, supporting the first woman to serve as an A.M.E. bishop.

When asked if she was satisfied, Williams replied, "they hope we are satisfied, but we're not. We need to keep working on it. I told them: 'One swallow does not a song make, and one bishop does not break the glass ceiling.'" Williams was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Executive Committee, receiving their NAACP's Presidential Award in 1999. During her forty-five years in Nashville, Williams was active in her community, serving on several interdenominational organizations, community groups, and civic committees.

She was also a lifelong member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. Williams credited her mother with inspiring her career: "I often tell people that if my mamma had the advantages they provided me, she really would have been a power," she told a reporter in 2005. "She wanted to be a missionary to Africa but got married instead." Dr. Jayme Williams, an activist for social reform and justice, a scholar, and a leader within academia, died peacefully in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 19, 2022.

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