“Nick” Gladys Williams of Graceville spent her life in education. She graduated from Graceville High School in 1944 and from Florida State University in 1948 where she received her bachelor’s degree in math and chemistry. She later received her master’s degree from Troy State University in guidance, and in administration and supervision.
Williams is known throughout Jackson County for her knowledge and influence on the many, many students as well as educators she has impacted throughout 47 years of service. Williams is known for her iconic smile and positive words to everyone she meets. She returned to her hometown to begin her career in education. She was assigned to Sneads High School for one year before moving to Graceville for the next 22 years. She taught high school math and chemistry at Graceville High for 22 years. before moving part time into guidance. After 22 years at Graceville High, she moved to the county office.
While at Graceville, she was the junior and senior class sponsor, taking them on class trips and assisting with their activities at homecoming and throughout the year. Also, while at Graceville High School, she was teacher of the year and was one of the top nine in the State of Florida. Nick is very up front about her career in education, “I enjoyed teaching students and then when I got into guidance, I loved that. I left for the county office and loved that. Each time I left, I didn’t want to go back to where I was before.”
Bobby Childs was elected superintendent, he knew the county had a gem in Williams. He had worked with Williams at Graceville. Childs immediately set out to recruit Williams for a county office position. Williams said her daughter was just entering high school and she really wanted to enjoy her time there with her daughter so she declined the first offer. But by the next year, the temptation of the county office, as well as giving her daughter some ‘space’, she made the move to the county school board office where she remained for the next 25 years. She was Director of Student Services and Staff Development.
While at the county office, Williams was active many area and state associations, including State Staff Development Association where she held an office every year and then was elected the first woman President of the State Organization. She was also the Jackson County liaison to the area PAEC. Nick served as an officer and district director of Delta Kappa Education Honorary sorority.
Nick retired in 1995 but has remained as active as ever, continuing to be a very active member of the First United Methodist Church of Graceville and serves on the Public Library Board where she was president for many years. She is a member of the Graceville Woman’s Club and the Graceville Garden Club.
Nick was married to Buddy Williams of Graceville and they one daughter, Lynne. Buddy worked in livestock with his father. Lynn attended Chipola and graduated with a degree in pharmacy.
A person’s true worth is often measured in the words of those who know them. Nick’s worth is pretty high with the words expressed about her. Margaret Bell says, “I transferred to Jackson County School Board in 1985. I worked with Nick until she retired. Some people just shine a little brighter and work a little harder in this world to make life better for everyone around them. This is Nick Williams. Her spirit and hard work would always light the way for others to follow. She has such a kind heart and generous soul. I enjoyed the many years I worked with Nick. She is my friend and a very special person in my life.”
Scott Howell is a lifelong resident of Graceville and knows “Ms. Nick” well. He was a student at Graceville High when Nick was a teacher and a counselor, and he has attended the First United Methodist Church with her for many years. He remembers Nick as being very devoted to the students and making a difference in their lives, “Nick was a student’s best friend and is highly respected in Graceville for her many years of service to the Jackson County school system. Nick is a faithful member of the church and for many years has given her time and talents to the church and congregation and was chosen as Woman of the Year. Nick has always a very kind, friendly, and strong woman who loves her family and very proud of her daughter and grandson.”
The sentiments go further with another friend for life of Nick’s. Nancy Odom says of her, “Some people’s soul shines from within so brightly that it illuminates and enhances the lives of those around them. That is the way it is with Ms. Nick. Her love of life and learning motivates you to want to reach for more, achieve more, do more, BE more. I have known her since I was in high school where she was my guidance counselor. I had decided not to go college for several reasons - but Ms. Nick would have none of it. She provided me, along with countless other children through the years, the encouragement and incentive to reach for a higher level of learning and success in life. She is a true hero in the education profession and one fine southern lady. Shine on, Ms. Nick.”
Dana Dilmore was fortunate enough to work with Nick also, “I began working for Nick in 1986 when I was in college. She hired me as a student worker in the Student Services department and later hired me in a full-time position. I worked for her for approximately six years. Nick was very welcoming and instantly became a friend instead of “just” my supervisor. She is one of those rare people who genuinely cares about you and treats you like family. She made such a difference with her constant optimism, enthusiasm, and willingness to answer questions. She was a hard worker and always expected the same of her employees. Somehow, Nick was always able to make what seemed complicated into something we could be excited about and get behind. It was a joy to work with someone so passionate, calm, and professional all at the same time. Her dedication to her employees and to the school system made a huge positive impact on our work and community. She had so many brilliant and creative ideas and suggestions and always made you feel that you were an important part of the department. She is a very special part of my life and I appreciate her friendship and caring more than I can ever say.”
Nell Swails has deep-rooted admiration for Williams as well, “When Nick hired me to be a school psychologist for the Jackson County School Board, I had no idea how much I would learn from her nor did I know we would become lifelong friends. In the 1970’s school psychology was a new profession; Jackson County contracted with a local mental health clinic (where I worked at the time) for psychologists to administer intellectual and psychological evaluations to students. When JCSB decided to hire school psychologists, Nick contacted me and encouraged me to obtain my certification. Throughout the years, Nick was the epitome of professionalism, believed in me, supported me, and inspired me to achieve by her words, her actions, and most importantly, by her example. In fact, there are four of us who worked together and we continue to meet for birthdays and Christmas. The four are Nick, Margaret Bell who was the Student Services secretary, Dana Dilmore who was the student assistant, and myself. Dana even came back 30 years later to work with our department! I think that was largely because of Nick who made us all feel respected, valued, and family. I remember Janice Kilpatrick who was a guidance counselor, frequently credited Nick who was Janice’s counselor at Graceville High, for enabling her to attend college and eventually choosing the same profession as her mentor. Nick instilled confidence in all of us, exhibited integrity in all work situations, was passionate in helping others, and dedicated to the Jackson County school system. At 91 years old, Nick continues to be a great mentor, leader, supporter, and friend.”
When interviewing Mrs. Williams, she was as delightful a person as this writer has ever met. Her love for education and her job even though she has been retired 22 years came through her voice and the light in her eyes when she talked about her job. Jackson County school system was truly blessed to have such a ‘shining’ lady for so many years.