Richmond residents Dorothy and W.A. Williams received the 2012 Dream Award at El Cerrito’s 23rd Annual March and Rally on Jan.16 commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The couple were honored for their longtime civic involvement in the West County community and for their tenacity—having transcended discrimination to realize precedent-setting career accomplishments.
“Each year, the Dream Award is given to recognize unsung heroes in the community,” said Patricia Durham, coordinator of the El Cerrito event.
Natives of Mississippi and married for 51 years, the couple migrated to California after W.A. completed his military service.
W.A. attended San Francisco State for his graduate studies and later worked for the Richmond Unified School District, retiring after 25 years. He made history as the first African-American to teach in the Hearing Impaired Department.
As someone who grew up in the South where he experienced stark racial segregation, he was inspired to join the NAACP and later became the President of the Richmond Branch. W.A. continues to be actively involved in the community as a businessman, member of the Contra Costa Election Advisory Committee, officer in the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization and member of St. Peter CME Church for 42 years.
Dorothy attended Tuskegee University School of Nursing and received her certification as a Registered Nurse Anesthetist at Grace/Wayne School of Anesthesiology in Detroit. She completed graduate work in Health and Hospital administration at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.
Dorothy became in 1958 the first African- American to be hired as an Anesthesia staff member at Outer Drive Hospital in Ecorse, Michigan. She was the first African- American to join the professional staff of the Anesthesia Department at the Geary Street Kaiser Permanente Hospital in San Francisco and retired from Kaiser Hospital Oakland after 30 years.
Dorothy has been a member of St. Peter CME Church for 44 years. While serving as president of the Naomi’s Circle Missionary Society (an auxiliary of St. Peter CME Church), she was approached by Judge Charles Wilson, who shared his vision for an event that uplifted the legacy of Dr. King within the community. As a result, she organized the first-ever March and Rally honoring Dr. King in 1990. Since then, the event has evolved into El Cerrito’s annual event honoring Dr. King.
Dorothy is a Diamond Life Member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Life member of the NAACP and Life member of the Ladies Auxiliary VFW. She is active in the local chapter of the Tuskegee Alumni Council, where she has served as president.
The Williams have two children, Gayle N. Williams, Esq., and Dr. Kevin T. Williams and two grandchildren, Diamond and Anthony.
Kia Croom is a contributing writer for the Richmond Post.