College of Communications and Fine Arts Art Museum of the University of Memphis
Juanita Williamson

The voice of eminent linguist Juanita K. Williamson (1917-1993) rang crisply out, often in muted irony, for holistic education. Born in Shelby, Mississippi, Dr. Williamson moved to Memphis as a child, was educated in the public schools (Booker T. Washington), and received her B.A. from LeMoyne-Owen College in 1938. She began teaching at LeMoyne in 1947, leaving only for stays in Atlanta (M.A., Atlanta University, 1940), Ann Arbor (Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1961), or in such places as Knoxville, Stanford, and Milwaukee for summer language institutes at some dozen universities. Virtually all of these universities—where her witty lectures to graduate and postgraduate students (including MSU in the summer of 1969, 1973, and 1975) — and at least two dozen others courted her to join their faculties. But she remained at LeMoyne where she chaired the English Department for many years, was named Distinguished Service Professor in 1980, taught until a few months before her death in August, 1993, and amassed a list of students laced with eminent names.

Williamson, who in 1982 was listed among sixty nationally Known Role Models of Successful Blacks, served the profession and the community for nearly sixty years. She was on the Executive Committees of all of the major organizations of her field (before which she delivered numerous addresses): Modern Language Association; Conference on College Composition and Communication; National Council of Teachers; and the American Dialect Society. And in the community: Memphis Executive Committee for the United Way; Executive Committee of the Historical Council of the United Church of Christ; counselor for Girl Scouts; Memphis Board of Directors for Integration Service; 1952-1958. A Fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation and HEW Grantee, Williamson tirelessly wrote grants for LeMoyne and for programs to coordinate higher, elementary, and secondary education. She was awarded the Citation for Excellence in Education by the Memphis City Council in 1973.

Dr. Joan Weatherly

Image courtesy of University of Memphis Libraries, Special Collections.


Ida B. Wells

Francis Wright

Myra Dreifus

Annie Cook

Alberta Hunter

Suzanne Scruggs

Julia Hooks

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Last Updated: 2/28/13