Seasoned rattler reminisces


It is a quiet afternoon. The neighborhood is serene and 94-year-old Rattler Lucille Williams watches as the scenery changes.

As she sits on her porch, located on Young Street near Florida A&M’s School of Architecture, she slowly reflects on her youthful days as a Rattler. 

Petite in stature with a sharp mind, Williams revealed how her family is steeped in FAMU’s history.

“My family is connected to FAMU,” Williams said as she displayed their class photos. “My mother finished FAMU in 1909, and my auntie finished in 1908.” 

Williams’ grandfather, Henry Thomas, was a freed slave who sent his two daughters to college. The university was known as the State Normal and Industrial College for Colored Students at the time.

In 1909, it was renamed Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes. Though it was hard to fathom the desire to go to college during an era somewhat fresh from the abolition of slavery, Williams said it was a must in her family. 

“It was pretty understood in my family that after high school you went to college,” Williams said.

She explained the importance of education in her family. Though Williams was the only daughter, her mother believed it was vital for her to attend college.

Born in the small city of Apalachicola, Williams said her life consisted of home, church and school. However, that never stopped her from exploring a world where opportunities for African-Americans were scarce but seemed boundless at FAMU. 

As a freshman in 1935, she lived in the science hall that contained a dormitory upstairs and science classes downstairs. Williams, who graduated in 1940 majoring in mathematics, still recalls her freshman roommate Lillian Thompson, who majored in music. 

She also remembered then-FAMU President John Robert Edward Lee who brought many nationally known speakers to campus. 

“I think about how privileged we were to be in an environment that gave us a great outlook on life,” she said.

The pride in her almond-shaped eyes was evident when she explained how college expanded her world and told of the impact FAMU had on her. She said the world was small with less distractions back then, but it gave her countless, unforgettable memories. 

Williams’ aspiration as a college student was to become an educator. After graduating, she used education to give back so that she could assist in expounding the visions  of children. 

“I love talking to Mrs. Lucille,”  said Sharielle Johnson, a senior business administration student from Tallahassee who lives next to Williams. “She’s full of wisdom and has always given me great advice regarding life and school. It helps having someone whose experienced it all.”

Williams has served as coordinator of education for Leon and Wakulla counties, was an assistant principal and went on to become a principal. 

She was later elected president of Florida Association for Childhood Education International. 

The Lucille Williams Mini Grant for students, a $150 grant, was named after her. It is sponsored by the Florida Association for Childhood Education International and is available for student-teachers to construct projects with children in the internship classroom. 

“Give,” Williams said. “The more you give, the more you receive. College is a door for opportunity.”

Williams’ noticed that her words about giving may come across as an ancient language. The displeasure in her voice spoke volumes as she compared the interest in learning with people of yesterday compared to those of today. 

“I just wonder,” Williams said. “Are we losing the human touch?”

Williams said people of her time used to speak to each other when they passed by.

“Now, I see people walking around looking down,” Williams. 

She said people are looking at something in their hands with something in their ears. 

“They’re almost about to bump into each other,” Williams said. 

However, Williams believes that technology is wonderful when it is used for the sole purpose it was created for. 

“Use it for what it was made for,” she said. “But don’t let it take over your mind.”