Clara Belle Williams, Black College Graduate Who Had to Stand in Hallway to Take Notes

Written by Jae Jones

was born in Plum, Texas in 1885. She was the valedictorian of the graduating class of Prairie New Normal and Independent College, now (Prairie View A & M University) in 1908. She married Jasper Williams in 1917; the couple raised three sons: Jasper, James and Charles. Williams enrolled at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in the fall of 1928, after taking some courses at the University of Chicago. While she worked as a teacher at Booker T. Washington School in Las Cruces, she also took college courses during the summer. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from NMSU in 1937 at the age of 51. Most of Williams professors did not allow her inside the classroom, she had to take notes from the hallway; she was also not allowed to walk with her class to get her diploma  because of the segregation laws.


Williams went on to continue her education beyond her graduation date, taking graduate-level classes well into the 1950s. She was a shining example to everyone she came into contact with. She urged her sons to do well in school and succeed in higher education. All three of her children went to college and graduated with medical degrees. One attended Howard University Medical School in Washington D.C and the two other children graduated from Creighton University Medical School in Omaha, Nebraska. They founded the Williams Clinic in Chicago, Illinois.

Clara went on to receive many honors during her lifetime. She succeeded despite significant obstacles of discrimination placed before her while pursuing higher education. In 1961, NMSU named Williams Street on the main campus in her honor. “She received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from NMSU in 1980. Williams passed away in 1994. She was 108. Day was celebrated on Feb. 13, 2005, at NMSU. Included in the festivities was the renaming of the NMSU English Building as Clara Belle Williams Hall.” (New Mexico State University)



Clara Belle Williams


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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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