Chicago’s Very Own: Reverend Margaret Ann Williams

Reverend Margaret Ann Williams, or Maw, as she’s called, from her initials M.A.W., flips through a photo album in her Hyde Park apartment.

She’s looking at pictures that tell the story of her very philanthropic career.

Reverend Michelle Sanders: “The name Maw is appropriate because she is like a mother.”

Williams came to Chicago with her family from Mississippi in 1940, just like many blacks who migrated north for a better life.

“I can remember riding the choo-choo train. The fun of being on the train with a shoebox with lunch in it. Chicken fried chicken in a lunch box.”

Her family settled near the old Comiskey Park on 35th and Wells.

“I grew up and had fun there because again being right across from there i could hear the scoreboard going off.”

As a girl Williams had her heart set on being an elementary school teacher.

Until she started working for a social service agency called Marcy Newberry Center, in the summer of 1956.

“I concluded that, uh uh, no I don’t want to be a teacher. I don’t want to be in the classroom that’ll be too confining. I want to be out in the community working with all the people.”

And that’s all it took, Williams was hooked. She began a lifetime of giving back and encouraging others to do the same. The ordained Methodist minister calls it, the joy of serving.

“No matter what kind of predicament you’re in or what kind of stress you are in. She will always remind me… oh the joy of serving.

That’s my thing, I get joy out of mission and helping anyway I can. As a matter of fact, in later years I’ve added on to it the joy of serving and giving.”

She carried that theme throughout the greater part of 49 years working for the Newberry center. Her house is just filled with plaques and awards she earned during her time there. Sadly a bad economy forced them to close after 130 years- last year.

“We were struggling as many social service agencies in the city of Chicago had been doing.”

But her time there was well spent. She spearheaded many programs like the cleanup initiative. She worked with the cubs and with the bulls- during the Michael Jordan era, to raise money for those in need.

“Time never meant anything to me. If we got to work all night then we work all night.”

Her dedication and tireless work prompted the garret theological seminary to establish a scholarship in her name– to support aspiring clergy.

“There is still some push back for women in ministry. She was definitely a role model to inspire me to follow that path and to continue.”

At 78 Williams says she has slowed down a bit. Now she takes time for walks in her Hyde Park neighborhood to reflect on a career that has helped thousands in her community.

“I don’t feel it’s a task. I feel it’s a joy to be able to serve.”

Reverend Margaret Ann Williams. She’s one of Chicago’s Very Own.

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