As remembered by Jan Hillegas
WARRENVILLE, S.C. - Cleveland J. "CJ" Williams Sr., 98, died Friday, August 12, 2005, at his residence.
Services are today at 1 p.m. at West Camp Church where he was a member. Burial will be in West Camp Cemetery. Hodges Funeral Home has charge.
Williams was a farmer and a native of Panola County. He spent much of his life securing voting rights for African Americans in Panola County and Mississippi. After attending grammar school in Batesville, he attended Piney Woods School south of Jackson under the instruction of Dr. R. C. Jones. Too poor to return home during summers, Williams remained at the school and worked, earning the respect of the school's founder.
Williams met his wife, the former Elemira Richardson at Bethlehem M.B. Church when the congregation met in a log cabin. In 1964, as hundreds of students from northern colleges and universities were organized by the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) to spend the summer in Mississippi to register blacks as voters, Williams was among the local hosts who opened their homes to provide lodging during the Mississippi Freedom Summer project. When voter registration efforts of that summer led to the creation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Williams was chosen as one of four delegates from Panola County to attended the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.
In 1966, Williams became one of the first black residents since Reconstruction to seek elective office in Panola County. He was also instrumental in the organization of the West Batesville Farmers' Co-op.
He was preceded in death by his wife.
Survivors include four daughters, Nina Kimble of Batesville, Cordia Pickney of Indianapolis, Ind., Geraldine Hicks of Alexandria, Va. and Lula Williams of Los Angeles, Calif.; two sons, Cleveland J. Williams III of Warenville, S.C. and Lacey Williams of Courtland; three sisters, Emma W. Postell of Hephzibah, Ga., Lou Christie Walls of Tacoma, Wash. and Audrest Hughes of Denton, Texas; 19 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren.