Julius Williams Jr. Talks About Growing up in Montgomery during the Civil Rights Era
Feb. 10, 2022
Our series of interviews honoring Black History Month continues tonight as we visit with Julius Williams Jr., and hear about his experiences growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, becoming a lifelong educator and how things have changed over the course of his lifetime.
Julius is a native of Montgomery, Alabama, born in1943. He attended public schools in Montgomery, and graduated from Booker T Washington High School in 1962. He was the first in his family to attend college and enrolled in Alabama State, a HBCU, the same year that James Meredith, a civil rights pioneer, became the first African American admitted to the University of Mississippi. Upon graduation in 1966, Julius became an art teacher. His career and personal life blended the arts, education, and helping others – especially those in need – to succeed.
Williams has had many career highlights. He worked as an art teacher and later as an art gallery director in Rochester, New York. He was an art and recreation therapist at Elmira Psychiatric Center in Elmira, New York, and also served as the Affirmative Action & Compliance Administrator at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.
Later, in Boston, Williams was the Equal Opportunity Coordinator at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and the Vice President & Personnel Director at the Coolidge Bank & Trust Company in Watertown, MA. He continued to serve in later years as the Special Assistant for Affirmative Action and Compliance at Massachusetts Water Resources Authority in Boston, and a Regional Marketing Director in Cambridge, MA. He also founded Christensen/Williams & Associates, consulting in business and organization development,.
He has also served many non-profits over the years, including Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona; Big Brother, American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay; Harvard Pilgrim Health Care; KeyStep, Inc. Formerly Comprehensive School Age Parenting Program, and Boston Urban Bankers Forum, Inc.
Williams retired in 2004 and now lives in Scottsdale.
One interesting tidbit- he once delivered newspaper to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Williams: “Its about where we were and where we are and where we are going.”
What are your memories as a child in Montgomery?
Williams: “Thinking about what it was like growing up at that time having no electricity, no running water, outdoor plumbing, I remember a lot about those times. Living in a three-room house, there were eight kids. I had five sisters, two brothers, and mom and dad. We all lived in a three room house. My dad added an additional house, and that became the kitchen eventually. So, I have a lot of memories. Around the corner was a grocery store where I used to work…next door was a barber shop… that’s where Dr. King used to go to get his haircut and talk politics with the barbers there, when he came to Montgomery in 1955.”
When you were younger did it feel like change was in the air?
Williams: “It did and it didn’t. I was heavily involved in a lot of the sit ins and the marches that were taking place in Montgomery during the 50s, especially around the bus boycott period… When doing the bus boycott we had many of the churches who brought station wagons to transport maids to their domestic jobs.”
What has changes over your lifetime and what needs to still be changed?
Williams: “People need to learn to respect one another. What has changed is that we have, people need to know a lot about history. They need to read and learn about what other people and what their upbringing was like, and they need to share that information.”