When the Rev. Charles Maze thinks back on the people who shaped his life when he was a young boy, he is quick to name those who helped educate him as a child.
One of those was Julia Abercrombie Williams. Williams was Maze’s third-grade teacher at Marlboro Heights Elementary School in Killeen.
“She was an incredible teacher,” said Maze, now the senior pastor at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Temple. “She set a foundation for me and many other students.”
Williams died Aug. 3, mere weeks before her 107th birthday, Sept. 8.
Williams’ friends and family will hold a “Celebration of Life” event at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Doc Jackson Professional Learning Center in Killeen, the site of the former Marlboro Elementary School.
A Texas native, Williams and her husband, Milton Williams, moved to Killeen in the 1950s. Williams worked as a teacher at Marlboro Heights, Killeen’s all-black school. When the Killeen school district integrated its schools in 1956, Williams became a third-grade teacher at the Avenue D School.
“She was one of the teachers that transferred to my school,” said former Avenue D principal Gordon “Cotton” Adams. “She fit right in. You could tell she had a real passion for teaching students.”
Adams, 88, of Killeen, characterized Williams as a patient, fair educator whose mission went beyond simply helping students academically.
“She wanted to prepare her students for life,” Adams said. “She wanted her kids to do well when they got out of school.”
That dedication to her community and the people who lived in it didn’t end when Williams retired from the Killeen Independent School District.
Williams was an active volunteer in her community. She was one of the original members of the Marlboro Heights Baptist Church, a founding member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Alumni Chapter of Killeen, an active member of the HOST child mentoring program and a founding member of the Killeen Area Alliance of Black School Educators. She also was a member of the Killeen NAACP and the Texas State Teachers Association.
“She was more than just an educator,” said Brockley Moore, who first met Williams in 1989 while she was doing volunteer work at Fort Hood. “She was a pillar of the community.”
Moore, who is also an active volunteer in the Killeen area, said Williams was an active organizing force, and a wealth of knowledge, for those looking to follow her example and make the community a better place.
“She was the kind of person who knew everybody, and could pull things together,” Moore said. “She was always kind and loving to everyone.”
Williams’ work did not go unrecognized. She received a Woman of Distinction award in 1993, and was named Volunteer of the Year for her work with HOST in 1996. In 2006, her 100th birthday, she was awarded her own day by the city of Killeen.