This issue of Reflections focuses on the life and contributions of Dr. B. T. Williams, one of the earliest black dentists to establish a practice in Sumter.
Dr. Williams, along with Dr. Thomas B. Davis, Dr. Andrew Maxwell, Dr. Irby D. Davis Jr., …
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Dr. Williams, along with Dr. Thomas B. Davis, Dr. Andrew Maxwell, Dr. Irby D. Davis Jr., Dr. Edward C. Jones and Dr. Edmond M. McDonald, provided an invaluable service to Sumter's black community for several years while also remaining active in social causes. He proved to be an excellent steward in the teachings of his church while contributing to many projects undertaken by the congregation, one being the Mt. Pisgah apartment project.
The information incorporated into this article was obtained from The Item archives, the recollections of James Felder and from the personal accounts of Dr. Williams' daughter, Natalie Williams.
The son of Robert Lee and Mamie Carrion Williams, Dr. Williams was born in Elloree.
His father was posthumously inducted into the Claflin Hall of Fame, November 16, 2005, because of his continuous involvement in community service.
"In the early 20th century, Mr. Williams was a successful farmer and owned a cotton gin and a saw mill. His success as a farmer was cited in several publications. The Tuskegee Institute awarded him an honorary Master Farmer Degree, and State A&M College awarded him a Distinguished Honorary Farmers Degree in 1930. In 1949, his death was announced in The New York Times; the stores in Elloree, his home town, closed their doors to honor his memory."
Following in his father's footsteps, Dr. B. T. Williams saw the importance of attaining higher education. He enrolled in Meharry's Dental College along with two lifelong friends, Dr. D. V. Jemison of Dothan, Alabama, and Dr. G. H. Radford of Waco, Texas.
Dr. Williams practiced dentistry in Sumter for many years and, like his father, was a member of numerous civic organizations. He attained membership in the Palmetto Medical Dental Pharmaceutical Association, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the National Dental Association.
Dr. Williams was also active in the NAACP, serving as treasurer of the Carolina Teachers Defense Fund and the defense fund of the State Conference. He served with distinction as a member of the committee which initiated legal strategy in multiple cases taken on by the State Conference.
"On July 1, 1971, it was reported that Dr. B. T. Williams, a popular Sumter dentist who had been active in civil rights causes, died after a lengthy illness in the Tuomey Hospital at the age of 71. He was an active member in the Buena Vista Development Corp. and served as treasurer of the South Carolina State NAACP and was also active in the Palmetto State Medical Association and served as a trustee of the Mt. Pisgah AME Church."
Dr. Williams was instrumental in the service initiatives undertaken by his church.
He was also remembered by members of the Sumter community as an outstanding dentist and as an active participant in local and national segments of the NAACP.
His office was located in South Sumter and was open to his patients when he was needed regardless of the time.
He was regarded as professional, personable and willing to help those in need.
Dr. Williams was interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery.
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