ASU students expelled for civil rights participation

Published: Nov. 17, 2011 at 6:12 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2011 at 11:14 PM EST
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Bettye Williams
Bettye Williams

People certainly risked their safety to take part in the Albany Movement. Some people lost their jobs. Others lost their best chance at a college education. Albany State College students took on a leading role with sit-ins, and marches and dozens were expelled for it.

Bettye Williams says she had to step up and fight for what was right, 50 years later, the retired teacher says she'd do it all again.

Albany State College students were a driving force in the Albany movement, marching right alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the other leaders of the movement. Bettye Williams was one of those marchers. "

You just have to make up in your mind that this is what you want to do," said Williams.

Back in 1961, after Williams' uncle was fatally beaten by police officer, she knew she had to stand up for equal rights for African Americans. She marched with Dr. King and came face to face with Albany police chief Laurie Pritchett.

"Chief Pritchett would say 'Martin, you have taken care of your business, so you need to disperse,' but we didn't. We just sat there so then he declared we would go to jail," said Williams.

Williams was arrested twice that year on charges of disturbing the peace, and Albany State expelled her from school. "They put us out of Albany State. We had to go and get the counselor and we went through a whole lot to be put back into school," said Williams.

Even with all the odds against her and knowing the consequences of her actions, Williams would not back down from what she believed in.

"Why? Because we were angry. We were young and we were just angry. We just felt like what we were doing was right," said Williams. Five years later, in 1966, she went back to Albany State and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Business Education.

She even went on to get her Master's at Georgia Southwestern. Williams went on to be a teacher for more than two decades and retired in 2000. Williams said she is proud of the accomplishment she and her classmates made, but says there is still more work to be done.

"We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Albany was still not straightened out," said Williams.

Mrs. Williams spoke highly of Dr. King, reminiscing about the good times they spent together.

She has yet to see the new King memorial in Washington DC, but says that's the next road trip on her list.

Copyright 2011 WALB.  All rights reserved.