Calvin Willis Williams, Sr. was born in Dixie, GA on February 8, 1942, to the late Bennett Williams and Ethel Tillman Williams. Calvin was the fourth child of ten children. He grew up in Quitman, GA. Due to the passing of his father, he started working a job at the very young age of twelve. He received his early education in the Quitman Public School District where he graduated with honors from Booker T. Washington High School. While in high school, Calvin played tuba in the band, participated in the drama club, choir, shop, and ran track.
After graduation, he was admitted to Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama on the “Five Year Work Plan” to pursue a degree in food administration. He worked four years in the hospital Dietary Department and one year in the George Washington Carver Museum. During his junior year, he enlisted in the Army Student Dietician Program for which he received PFC grad pay until he graduated. Upon graduation, he was discharged from the enlisted status and commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Army Medical Service Officer Basic Corps.
Calvin’s Army tenure was spent at the Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He was honorably discharged on July 2, 1967. After leaving the army, he returned to Tuskegee for a short stay with his godparents, John and Elenora Hines. During that time, whenever there was need for a food administrator at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, they would call Tuskegee for its graduates. Calvin was asked to help fill a Food Service Manager position for a soon-to-be-opened new Campus Union at Jackson State College (JSC) in Jackson, MS.
It was hard to get anyone to come to Mississippi because of the turbulent racial times. Calvin was scared and didn’t want to go. He was told that if he did this favor for a year he would be given first choice to any jobs that came available in the country. He reluctantly accepted. On his way to Jackson, his car broke down in the middle of a Mississippi road at night. Two policemen pulled him over and asked him to step out of the car. Because Calvin stuttered when he was nervous, he could not get his words out. Luckily, he had on his military uniform. They had him write down everything and they called his new boss, Valmore A. Nelson, at JSC so that he could tell them who he was and where he was headed. They helped him get his car rolling and pointed him in the right direction.
Although he was suppose to work only one year, Calvin worked in Campus Union Food Services until the New Dining Hall was occupied in 1977. While working in the New Dining Hall, Calvin was promoted to associate director, a position he held until 1985. He later became acting director and Food Services director for Jackson State College, later named Jackson State University (JSU), for a total of 31 years. During his tenure at the university, he was instrumental in maintaining high standards for the Food Service Department, designing the New Dining Hall with others, creating a catering component that earned the university a new stream of income, serving on advisory committees, and bringing the Super Card to JSU.
He touched the lives of many students and staff during his life as a mentor, supervisor, father figure, and friend. He believed that the students were most important and that they should receive the same type of service as faculty and staff. He was well known for feeding students, even when they didn’t have the money.
Calvin earned a Master’s of Science in Educational Administration and Supervision degree from JSC where he met his future wife Edwina Cook of Laurel, MS who was also employed there in 1968. Their first home together was the JSC faculty apartments. They were blessed with three sons that attended the JSC Early Childhood Center, matriculated at JSU, and marched in the Sonic Boom of the South. They have five grandchildren and one was a JSU Baby Tiger.
After retirement, Calvin went on to work for Job Corps in Michigan, Mary Holmes Junior College in West Point, MS and Piney Woods Country Life School.
Calvin was a member of Greater Mt. Calvary Baptist Church and donated the chapel’s 100th year historical marker that designated it as a City of Jackson Historic Landmark. Calvin sang in the Gospel Choir from the 1970’s to the early 1980’s. His favorite two songs to sing were “How Great Thou Art” and “We’ve Come This Far by Faith.”
Calvin was very supportive of his wife’s Ward 5 “Beautiful View Block Club” which was known for helping to elect political candidates and sponsoring an annual block club festival that featured Grammy Award winner Bobby Rush as the headliner.
Calvin was initiated into the Alpha Epsilon Lambda Chapter, Jackson, MS of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. in 1973. He became Life Member #3529 of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. in 1976. He later served as the advisor to the Delta Phi Chapter of the fraternity on the campus of Jackson State University until his Gold retirement in 1999.
He was a former member of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., Phi Delta Kappa, and a charter member of The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). He loved growing flowers and refinishing antiques.
Calvin received many awards during his life for his service to mankind and philanthropy and will be missed by many friends and family.
Calvin was preceded in death by his parents and three brothers, Sam, Wallace, and Wilbert Lee. He leaves to cherish his memory: his loving wife, Edwina Williams of Jackson, MS; three sons, Calvin Williams, Jr. of Jackson, MS, Jim Williams (Danquel) of Conley, GA, and Marland “Snap” Williams of Jackson, MS; five grandchildren, Paisley, Jaeden, Matilyn, Khloe, and Kennedy; five sisters, Joyce Chester of McDonough, GA, Belva Jean Jones of Pembroke Pines, FL, Minnie Madison of Baltimore, MD, Barbara Ann Williams of Quitman, GA, and Pearline Adams (Willis) of Utica, NY; one brother, Eddie Lee Williams (Shirley) of Brunswick, GA; and a host of other relatives and close friends.