Posted on 03/03/2008

Photo taken on January  1, 1905

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African American
Clara Belle Drisdale
New Mexico State University

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Clara Belle Williams

Clara Belle Williams
[b.1885 - d.1994]

Clara Belle Drisdale was born in Plum, Texas in October 1885. She attended Prairie View Normal and Independent College (now Prairie View A & M University) in Prairie View, Texas beginning in 1903, and was valedictorian of her 1908 graduating class. She married Jasper Williams in 1917, and had three sons: Jasper, James, and Charles. Her husband died in 1946.

Williams took courses at the University of Chicago, and then enrolled at the New Mexico College of Agriculture & Mechanic Arts in the fall of 1928.

Taking courses only offered during the summer, while she worked as a teacher at Booker T. Washington School in Las Cruces, New Mexico, she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in English from NMCA&MA in 1937 at the age of 51.

During a time when Las Cruces’s public schools were segregated, Mrs. Williams taught at the Booker T. Washington School for more than 20 years.

Mrs. Williams’ three sons all went to college and graduated with medical degrees. Charles attended Howard University Medical School in Washington D.C., Jasper and James graduated from Creighton University Medical School in Omaha, Nebraska. They went on to found the Williams Clinic in Chicago, Illinois.

Clara Belle Williams went on to receive many honors during her lifetime. She succeeded despite significant obstacles of discrimination placed before her while pursuing her higher education. In 1961, New Mexico State University named Williams Street on the main campus in her honor. She received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from NMSU in 1980.

Clara Belle Williams Day was celebrated on Sunday, February 13, 2005 at NMSU. Included in the festivities was the renaming of the NMSU English Building as Clara Belle Williams Hall.

Mrs. Williams passed away July 3, 1994 at the age of 108.

Panorama New Mexico State University Alumni Magazine
By Karl Hill