Alumni Highlight: Barbara Williams, 71

Alumna mayor crushed gender stereotypes in music, education, and politics

Apr. 10, 2018

Mayor Barbara B. Williams is the first African-American female mayor of Fort Valley, Georgia, serving her 2nd term after being first elected in 2013 by upsetting the long-serving incumbent. She is a graduate of the class of 1971 at Fort Valley State College with a bachelor’s degree in music education. She also earned a master’s degree from Georgia Southern College.

Mayor Williams was also Georgia”s first female band director, serving as the band director in Dooly County for 18 years, growing the marching band from 60 members to 105. As a young educator, she taught herself how to play multiple instruments including woodwinds (flute and clarinet), brass (trumpet and trombone), strings and percussion, so that she could help each of her students master their musical talents, whatever their instrumental proclivity. She worked at Fort Valley Middle School as a band director and eventually earned an education specialist degree in music.

Hansen Video

Watch: Marketing Intern Taheerah Hansen discusses Mayor Williams’s legacy and the paths they both have blazed for women and for Fort Valley State University.

After retiring, she entered the political arena to serve the community. She served on Fort Valley’s City Council for 16 years, as mayor pro-tempore, chair of the Fire Committee, and member of the Personnel and Public Works Committees and the Board of Directors for the Fort Valley’s Downtown Development Authority/Main Street. In 1994, Williams’ husband Jimmy, who she met while both were students at FVSU, was elected mayor. Sadly, he died two years into his term. To honor her husband’s memory, she vowed to take on goals he had for the City of Fort Valley, running and winning the 2103 mayoral election.

Mayor Williams family history is truly one that mirrors the African proverb,”It takes a village to raise a child.” A native of Roberta, Georgia, Williams is the youngest child of the late Charlie and Willie Etta Braswell. Williams was raised by Ellen and Isaac Reeves, her older sister and brother-in-law, after her mother died two days after giving birth to her. The couple raised her in the Olive Grove Church community.

Williams is ever present on campus and a proud supporter of her alma mater. She also helps mentor students whose goal is to became band directors themselves.

Watch: Barbara Williams talks about vision for Fort Valley

Watch NBC 41 WMGT: Fort Valley enjoys small time living.

Fort Valley State University