Lockhart grateful Williams loves doing what she does


By Kyle Mooty

LPR Editor

Over at least six generations and likely more before and more to come, Garfield Arnik of Dale has bestowed quite an impact on his family.

“It was so valuable, and you don’t realize it until you get older,” said Shirley Williams, Arnik’s granddaughter. “It was values as to how we are to carry ourselves, not going around depending on anybody, be true to who we are, don’t let anybody change us, and don’t be begging anybody. Don’t go around blaming people. If people don’t want to be bothered with you, move on because somebody is gonna see your goodness.”

Williams took heed of those words of wisdom, and on Jan. 27, she was named the Lockhart Chamber of Commerce’s Most Worthy Citizen for her lifetime of work with and constant love for the children in the area.

Those words of wisdom came from her grandfather who never learned to read or write.

“It stayed with me my entire life,” said Williams, 81, and going on her 59th year of marriage to Homer Williams.

Shirley Williams grew up in Dale, living next door to her grandfather. Her mother, Esther, carried on the same kindness traits as her father, so it was instilled in Shirley. She and Homer have raised two children, Dr. H. Fritz Williams of San Antonio, and Dr. Deirdre Williams of Lockhart, a Professor of Education at Texas State University. Dr. H. Fritz Williams has two children, 30-year-old Donovan, a Lockhart High School coach who played in the NFL, and Khaliah, 27, a second grade teacher in San Antonio.

Shirley Williams was noted as a loving and caring teacher’s aide at Carver Kindergarten for a quarter of a century, but her impact, has also reached far beyond those 25 years.

Williams was presented the honor at the Luling Civic Center by the 2023 Most Worthy Citizen, Jeffry Michelson.

Williams started to school at age 5, alongside her brother at a one-room schoolhouse in Dale taught by Mrs. Willie Brown. Eventually, the school in Dale was closed when Carver Elementary was built in Lockhart. Williams went there as a fifth and sixth grader, then attended Lockhart Vocational Carver High School, graduating in 1959.

“Lockhart was much different back then,” Williams said.

While at Carver High, Shirley met Homer, who had been born in Gonzales, but lived in other towns, including Luling, with his parents, before settling in Lockhart in 1962.

Shirley began attending Austin Community College, where she earned her certificate. She said she aways loved to read, even when she wasn’t asked to do so.

She was a historian, babysat, and worked in the hotel industry in Austin.

Homer had joined the military and was stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen. He asked Shirley once if she would go to church with him. She did. He repeated the act the following week, and again. Eventually, Homer asked Shirley’s father if he could marry Shirley.

“My Daddy told him, ‘Yes, but I want you to remember she’s already been raised so you don’t have to raise her,’” Shirley said. “I think that would be good for anybody. He listened to my Daddy.”

The Williams were married in 1965, originally living in Dale but moving to Lockhart in 1968, buying a house for $3,000. That was the house where they had their two children. Shirley was a stay-at-home mother.

However, she did venture to work at H-E-B, becoming that store’s first African-American employee.

“There were actually some people that didn’t want anyone to check them out except me,” Williams recalled.

Eventually, motherhood brought Williams back home, but when Dorothy Buckner asked Williams to work at Carver Kindergarten, she was once again in the Lockhart workforce. Besides, she started working at Carver when Deirdre was beginning kindergarten there.

“I treated them as I would treat my own child because I have a love for children,” Williams said.

Williams recalled a recent trip to H-E-B where a former student recognized her. “They had me crying,” she said. Then, on their way to College Station, the Williams stopped in Bastrop at Buckee’s.

“We were going into the restroom,” Deirdre Williams said. “There was a young lady working there who came into the restroom and said, ‘Mrs. Williams, is that you? I heard your voice.’ She went on to share that she had been in kindergarten at Carver. It just so happened she was going to graduate the next weekend from Texas State. We went to that graduation. She said, ‘I’m here because of you.’ Buckee’s gave her an advancement and she was going to get her Master’s Degree.”

During a recent trip to a Lockhart restaurant, a young lady leaving as the Williams family was going in. The girl said, “Mrs. Williams, you don’t remember me, but I remember you. I was in your classroom. I love you.”

“Just knowing I made a difference in someone’s life, they still remember me… it just thrills my heart,” Shirley Williams said. “Thinking about how many have told me that, it just really touches me.”

Homer also has a work ethic few have, working as a carpenter, with the Post Office, as a mechanic, with the IRS, and as a youngster picking cotton.

“I picked cotton until the year I graduated,” Homer said. “I told my father, I’m going to pick cotton this year, but I ain’t gonna pick no more cotton.”

A 20-year military man, Homer has also spent 20 years with the Post Office and the IRS.

“I worked up until one day I was repairing a house we used to live in, and I was working on a baseboard and someone said, ‘sit down,’” he said. “I’ve been sitting down ever since.”

The Chamber honor was almost too much for Shirley Williams to grasp.

“I am having such a hard time processing it,” she said. “I just want to do what I do. I’m just gonna continue, stay in the organizations that I’m in.”

Her organizations are plentiful. In addition to her previous work, Shirley Williams is either a current or past member of American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, Heroines of Jericho, a board member of Caldwell County Food Bank, board member of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library, Friends of the Library, an election officer of Caldwell County, a member of the Historical Commission, member of Senior & Law Enforcement Together, Texas Extension Education Caldwell County, member of the First Baptist Church — Mother of the Church; Progressive Club, and Lockhart Education Foundation.

Her church, First Baptist Church at 514 Neches Street, is pastored by her son, Dr. H. Fritz Williams.

In Dale, we were all family,” Shirley Williams said. “Everybody was related to each other. There was love. Everybody was everybody’s children. If you did something, they’d tell your parents, and you were in trouble. We were raised up as a village, people who cared about each other’s children.”:

Shirley Williams was the second of five children, with all of her siblings retired and living in Austin. Her sister worked in education, while her three brothers are each retired from the military.


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