Claudia Burris Williford Oldest Living Morris Brown College Alumnus at Age 108
Atlanta, GA (November 21, 2011). Claudia Burris Williford, at the age of 108, is the oldest living graduate of Morris Brown College. “When we heard about Mrs. Williford, we knew we had to visit with her and speak with her in order to capture her oral history of Morris Brown,” said George Hopkins, president of the Morris Brown College National Alumni Association. “We have a unique opportunity to hear the voice of our rich history by visiting Mrs. Williford; and – through her witness – experiencing the college’s first 50 years. Dr. Stanley Pritchett, president of Morris Brown College, and I will go to Anderson, SC to meet Mrs. Williford on Thursday, December 8.
During the 1881 North Georgia Annual Conference of the AME Church, Morris Brown College was founded at Big Bethel AME Church and was established “for the moral, spiritual, and intellectual growth of Negro boys and girls.” In 1885, one-hundred and seven (107) students and nine instructors entered a wooden frame building on the corner of Boulevard and Houston Street to start what is still Morris Brown College – making it the first educational institution in Georgia under sole African-American leadership.
Mrs. Williford was born on July 22, 1903. She received an AB Degree in Education from Morris Brown College in 1926; and she has been a teacher all of her adult life. “She represents what Morris Brown College did best during the school’s formative years. And Morris Brown is still about the business of educating young African American men and women. During its 130 years of service, MBC has produced outstanding leaders in many diverse fields and has a prolific record of training African American educators throughout Georgia and the south during the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, says Dr. Pritchett.”
Mrs. Claudia Burris Williford received her primary education from Reed Street School in Anderson, SC and later attended Haynes Institute for one year. After graduating from Morris Brown, her first teaching job was at Rural Deep Creek School, in Anderson County (SC), where she taught the 1st Grade. Some of the students she remembers are the late Rev. Larry Humphrey, Bishop B. T. Cunningham, Mrs. Mattie Watson, the Moss family, and others. She remained at Deep Creek Rural School for approximately ten years and was later employed at Reed Street School, where she remained until her retirement around 1941. Some of her students from Reed Street included Mr. Alphonso Norris, Rev. Kelly Simmons, Mrs. Dorothy Rooks, and many others. Ms. Burris married Mr. Timothy Williford and moved to Philadelphia, PA where she continued in the field of education by running a Home Day Care Center until her husband’s death. Mrs. Williford currently lives in Anderson, SC with her granddaughter, Monica Williford.
Claudia Williford has one son, Lee Allen Williford; two granddaughters Monica Williford and Erica Williford; and two great grand children, Aleah Butler and Kingston Abraham. She has lost most of her sight and cannot hear very well but she is alert and welcomes visitors. She is a member of Salem Presbyterian Church (Anderson, SC) and enjoys a weekly visit from her pastor, Reverend Isaac Wallace. She has lots of care-givers from her community who visit her daily.