Former Broward County educator and school board member Mr. Benjamin Williams has ascended to the highest level of education: Heaven. Mr. Williams’ recent death has created a reservoir of memories for the countless individuals that he so powerfully impacted as a Broward educator of the first magnitude: teacher, counselor, assistant principal, principal, administrator, school board member and civil rights pioneer. By the time I began my educational career in 1969, Mr. Williams’ impact on the Broward education community was in full bloom, having begun in 1955 at Dillard Elementary. Mr. Williams was a tremendous champion for all children, especially children of color and the most vulnerable youth in our community.— David Watkins, President, Broward Chapter, National Alliance of Black School Educators
As a current high school principal, I stand on the shoulders of Mr. Ben Williams, an educational giant, who helped pave the way for so many leaders like me. Mr. Fantastic “cracked” the door open for me enabling me to get my start as a teacher at Lauderhill Middle School. I can recall, meeting with Mr. Williams in his office and listening to the passion he exuded for the teaching profession. He would always say, “work on becoming a master teacher”. He exemplified the importance of reaching down and helping a younger generation of educators be impactful. Mr. Ben Williams will be missed but his legacy will not be forgotten. — Mark Howard, Principal, Hallandale Magnet High School
“I remember well when Mr. Benjamin ‘Mr. Fantastic’ Williams made this statement; “Research shows that children whose fathers take an active role in their educational lives earn better grades, better test scores, enjoy school more and are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college,” said Williams.
A personal relationship was developed with Mr. Fantastic after meeting with him and some close friends who are Black fathers, as we learned of the Black Star Project’s national initiative named, The Million Father March. Mr. Fantastic wanted Broward County Public Schools to have the largest turnout in the nation of Black fathers taking their children back to school on the first day. He had an all-out plan that included every aspect of the community. The first year we didn’t have the largest but we came close. Mr. Williams was serious about Black fathers being in the lives of their children and he had a personal assistant, Ms. Jennie Brooks who was right by his side in making sure his plans were put together extremely well. I’m sure they’re both reunited in heaven making plans to ensure that Black men stay in the life of their children.”— Bobby R. Henry, Sr., publisher Westside Gazette
Recently deceased and former Westside Gazette columnist Charles Moseley chronicled Mr. Williams’ induction into the Old Dillard Museum’s “Tree of Life” and his influential career as a teacher, administrator and school board member; read story below:
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, including 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: 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, a native of Bartow, Fla., graduated from 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 public schools. From 1965 until 1975, he ascended from classroom teacher to interim principal within the Nova Elementary School community which 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 the Broward County Public Schools System 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 who have been role models in our community. 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 and Elizabeth Meredith 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 our 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’ sixth grade class! He was always sharp mentally and impeccable 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 always encouraged us to be: masters of whatever we should choose to pursue. He and my father are responsible for my desire to constantly improve in whatever I do, whether hobby or vocation.”
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