By Edwin Buggage
There is the well-known African Proverb; It Takes a Village to Raise a Child. Alvin “Doc” Williams, eight decades of life embodies these words as he’s risen from living in a small town in rural Louisiana where there were limited opportunities, to become an educator who has shaped the minds of young people and encouraging them to dream big. “My will to give back comes from my mother and father, my family and all the people who sacrificed so I could become successful. I come from very humble beginnings. My mom cut sugarcane for a dollar a day. I remember us not having much in terms of material things, but I never felt poor because we were a tight knit community that helped out one another,” says Williams of his early life growing up in Plaquemine, Louisiana.
Being rooted in this spirit of communal uplift, Williams learned the value of hard work and the importance of people working together. A testament to this spirit is expressed as he is speaking from his couch, recounting his life’s journey, “Two of my brothers put their GI bills together to allow me to go to Southern University in Baton Rouge. Also, when students didn’t want to eat they gave me their meal card, also the lady in the lunch room who collected tickets sometimes would allowed me to eat for free.” While these were hard times for African-Americans, they were unified in moving the race forward. “It was a time where there was still segregation, but we invested in pursing excellence and we took great pride in someone doing well. And because others gave to me I feel it is my duty to give to others.”
Growing up during the dark days of segregation in America, it was instilled in Williams at an early age that education would be his ticket to a better life. “My parents valued education even though they only went to first and second grade because there were no schools for Blacks where we were from in the early 1900’s. As small children they didn’t have the formal education but they had the wisdom and understanding to support me and my siblings going to school because they did not have the same opportunities.” Affectionately known as “Doc” by many of his former students, he received degrees in Mathematics and Education at Southern University in Baton Rouge, then receiving his Master’s Degree at Loyola, and later earning his Doctorate at the University of Houston. Having enjoyed a career in Education lasting 44 years before retiring he’s taught at all levels from elementary to college.
Doc has touched the lives of many and his fingerprints are all over the City as many of his former students are achieving great things. In the classroom he has impacted many lives over the years. “A lot of youngsters have told me personally that I’ve made a major difference in helping them become successful,” he recounts. “Recently, I ran into the Police Chief Michael Harrison, who was one of my students and he said to me ‘Thank God for you. If it wouldn’t have been for you motivating me as my teacher at McDonough 35 I don’t know if I would have become the Chief of Police.’ So many of my former students come up to me and say I made a difference in their lives and that makes me feel good that I’ve been able to impact young people in helping them to strive for excellence.”
Outside of the classroom he gives back in other ways; working through his church, his fraternity Omega Psi Phi (Que-Dog) Chapter and Masonic Chapter he’s helped in raising money for scholarships to help college students. “Through many of the organization I am a part of we are committed to giving financial assistance to students providing opportunities by investing in them on their climb to become the future leaders in our community.”
For all he’s done Williams says none of this would have been possible if his life was not rooted in his spirituality. “I feel God is the source of everything and I’ve committed my life to him very early and have been able to accomplish a lot in my life because of it. I have been able to live through many stages of my life and as I look back I have lived my purpose and that is to serve God, my family and my community.”