Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hundreds pack church to remember Pinellas school board member Lew Williams

Pallbearers push Lewis “Lew” Williams’ casket Saturday while his wife, Arthurene Williams, left, waits at Greater Mount Zion AME Church in St. Petersburg. Mr. Williams died Dec. 3 after undergoing heart surgery to replace a valve. He was 68.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Pallbearers push Lewis “Lew” Williams’ casket Saturday while his wife, Arthurene Williams, left, waits at Greater Mount Zion AME Church in St. Petersburg. Mr. Williams died Dec. 3 after undergoing heart surgery to replace a valve. He was 68.

ST. PETERSBURG — A little more than a year ago, Rene Flowers sat inside the home of Lewis "Lew" Williams and asked him why he had decided to run for School Board.

"I want to keep the main thing the main thing," he responded.

For Mr. Williams the "main thing" was children. He spent more than 30 years as an educator in Pinellas County, rising from teacher to principal to school administrator. In 2010, he came out of retirement to run for the School Board.

He beat out two others for the seat, despite being outspent, said Flowers, a former St. Petersburg City Council member who managed Mr. Williams' campaign. He also was the only man and African-American on the board.

Mr. Williams died Dec. 3, days after undergoing heart surgery to replace a valve. He was 68.

On Saturday, hundreds of students, teachers, parents, community leaders and elected officials packed Greater Mount Zion AME Church to say goodbye.

"We didn't have to sell the product with Mr. Williams," Flowers said, tears in her voice. "He was the genuine product. … Lew was the main thing."

Mr. Williams was born April 6, 1943, in Georgia.

He was the oldest of seven children, supported by a mother who did day work to make ends meet. He was poor enough to receive free lunch. The family didn't have a car, a television or a phone.

But while in high school, a teacher took notice, and paid for Mr. Williams' freshman year at Allen University in Columbia, S.C. He later got his master's degree from South Carolina State and was working on his doctorate at the University of South Florida.

Once out of school himself, Mr. Williams dedicated himself to educating others, joining Pinellas County Schools as a teacher in 1970.

"There are many in this room today that know that if it were not for Lew Williams, they would not be where they are," said Goliath Davis, former police chief and senior city administrator.

Several people, from Mayor Bill Foster to past students, said Mr. Williams was a quiet yet effective mentor to many. They shared memories of a humble man who loved his family, his city, his job and fishing.

"His life really speaks for itself," said fellow School Board member Linda Lerner.

During the service, several people presented proclamations to the Williams family. A representative from Rep. C.W. Bill Young's office read a letter the congressman personally wrote to Mr. William's wife, Arthurene, and two adult children, Brandi and Brandon.

In between presentations, the gospel choir from Gibbs High School sang, as did Mr. Williams' brothers from the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

"There's a sweet, sweet spirit in this place," Foster said at the beginning of the service.

That atmosphere matched Mr. Williams' personality. He often exuded calmness at board meetings and other functions, families and friends said. He was slow to talk and quick to listen.

"He was like a balm when you had a sore," said superintendent John Stewart. "He just made it better."

Stewart reflected on the last time he spent time with Mr. Williams, a few weeks ago. The two had lunch at one of Mr. Williams' favorite spots — Big Tim's Bar-B-Q on 34th Street S — before going on to visit Gibbs.

Every couple of hundred feet, people stopped them in the halls to talk to Mr. Williams.

"He was just the kind of guy who made you feel good around him," Stewart said. "We won't find another Lew Williams."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com.

Hundreds pack church to remember Pinellas school board member Lew Williams 12/10/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 10, 2011 11:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa lands Super Bowl in 2021

    Bucs

    NFL owners have voted unanimously to move Super Bowl LV to Tampa in Feb. 2021. This will be the fifth time Tampa has hosted and the first time since 2009.

    Mike Tomlin celebrates with LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu after the Steelers beat the Cardinals in 


Super Bowl XLIII  on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. [Times files (2009)
  2. Spacewalking astronauts pull off urgent repairs at International Space Station (w/video)

    Space

    CAPE CANAVERAL — Spacewalking astronauts completed urgent repairs at the International Space Station on Tuesday, replacing equipment that failed three days earlier and restoring a backup for a vital data-relay system.

    In this NASA provided frame from video, NASA astronaut Jack Fischer works to install antennas at the International Space Station while astronaut Peggy Whitson, not pictured, works on repairs Tuesday, May 23, 2017. [NASA via AP]
  3. Forecast: Severe storms, gusty winds for Tampa Bay as cold front arrives Wednesday

    Weather

    Muggy and dry conditions will prevail across the Tampa Bay region ahead of a cold front that could produce gusty winds and potentially severe storms late Wednesday.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  4. For starters: Rays vs. Angels, with Cobb leading the way

    Blogs

    Rays veteran RHP Alex Cobb had a lot to say Monday about the team needing to focus on getting past .500 and building a winning record.

    And after the disappointing 3-2 loss that …

    Alex Cobb will start tonight when the Rays play the Angels.
  5. Tampa murder suspect told police he wanted to stop neo-Nazi roommates from committing acts of domestic terrorism

    Criminal

    TAMPA — After he admitted to shooting two roommates and led police to their dead bodies, Devon Arthurs said he committed the killings to prevent the pair from carrying out terrorist acts, a prosecutor wrote in a court filing.

    Devon Arthurs, 18, told police  he shared neo-Nazi beliefs with his roommates, Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew Oneschuk, until he converted to Islam, according to a police report.
[Tampa Police]