Old Dillard Museum inducts educator Benjamin Williams into the Tree of Life
By Charles Moseley
Some people are just born to follow a certain path in life. Who could imagine Muhammad Ali not being known as “The Greatest of All Time” or Michael Jackson not being known as “The King of Pop”? The name Benjamin Williams may not resonate on a worldwide stage, but for thousands upon thousands of students here in Broward County, the name “Mr. Fantastic” will always have a special meaning and always be remembered.
Williams was recently inducted into the Old Dillard Museum’s Tree of Life for his contributions in education, which spanned over half a century here in Broward County. The ceremony took place Nov. 1, 2012 in the Heritage Room at the Old Dillard Museum in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., before an audience of family members, colleagues, and former students. Patricia West, president of the Old Dillard Foundation, Ann Murray, board chair of the School Board of Broward County, and Broward County School Board Superintendent Robert W. Runcie greeted the audience.
“Benjamin Williams has been an icon in the community. He’s been a pioneer in education in this District. And his leadership will definitely be missed. He’s made enormous contributions to public education here in Broward County. As I was sitting down Saturday at the Dillard Homecoming football game, I happened to sit down with some of the Dillard alumni. They came over to tell me that the best teacher that they had ever had in life, which included college, was Benjamin Williams. They went on to talk about how he ran his classes; it wasn’t just about academics, he taught them life skills,” said Runcie.
Williams has served as principal at a number of schools here in Broward including: Nova Blanche Forman Elementary, Walker Elementary Magnet School, Parkway Middle Performing Arts & Technology Magnet, and Dillard High School Arts & Technology Magnet School. Representatives from several schools presented Williams with proclamations and performed in his honor.
“I was overwhelmed and very appreciative. The students’ performances were FANTAS-TIC and I thank all involved for their efforts in making the evening a memorable event,” said Williams.
Williams is a native of Bartow, Fla. and graduate of Florida A & M University. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Indiana University. Additionally, he has done post graduate work at Florida Atlantic University in Elementary Education and Supervision. He began teaching in Broward County at Dillard Elementary in 1955. In 1965, Williams was chosen to be one of a select group of teachers who integrated the classrooms of Broward’s public schools. From 1965 until 1975, he ascended from classroom teacher to interim principal within the Nova Elementary School community that included Nova Eisenhower and Nova Blanche Forman.
As principal of Walker Elementary School from 1975 until 1987, Williams introduced the county’s first magnet program; Walker became a performing arts and science magnet. He continued the design and implementation of outstanding magnet programs within the district and opened the first middle school magnet program at Parkway Middle School for Performing Arts and Technology. He remained at Park-way Middle until he became principal of Dillard High in 1992. Williams concluded his career at Dillard High when he retired in 1994.
Williams and his wife Rebecca, a former Reading Supervisor for the District, raised two sons and a niece in Broward County’s Public Schools and have six grandchildren. Williams has been a member of New Mount Olive Baptist Church for over 45 years and has served as the church treasurer and on the Finance Committee. Since his retirement, he has continued to serve the citizens of Broward County through various community service organizations and currently is on the Board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Broward County and the Broward Cultural Council. He was elected to the School Board in 2000 and has served multiple times as both Vice-Chair and Chair and continues as the Board Member representing District 5.
“The Tree of Life represents a group of people that have been role models in our com-munity. The idea to honor Mr. Williams came up once it was realized that he would not be running for the School Board again. So that’s when members of the Old Dillard Foundation came up with the idea to honor him,” said Old Dillard School Curator Derek Davis.
Samuel Meredith Moseley III is a product of one the sixth grade classes of “Mr. Fantastic.” He has been a teacher in the Broward County Public School System for 16 years. Moseley’s father and mother Samuel Meredith and Elizabeth were educators here in Broward for over 30 years and their son presently teaches Social Studies at the Dave Thomas Educational Center in Coconut Creek. He recalled his experience as an elementary student of Williams while at Dillard Elementary.
“Mr. Williams modeled for we sixth grade students, what we should aspire to be: articulate, sharp in appearance, knowledgeable, well mannered, and thoughtful. I still remember lessons on verb conjugation and the types of clouds. Even to this day, I still recount to my students that
I learned about clouds in Mr. Williams’ classin sixth grade! He was always sharp mentally and in his appearance as well as the most energetic and enthusiastic teacher I have ever had! As for his teaching and motivational acumen, he was truly what he al-ways encouraged us to be: masters of whatever we should choose to pursue. He, along with my father, are responsible for my desire to constantly improve in whatever I do, whether hobby or vocation.”