Milton Augustine Williams, Jr (1935 - 2006)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Oyster Bay, NY, USA
Death: Died in White Plains, NY, USA
Cause of death: Acute pancreatic infection
Occupation: Music teacher and serviceman
Managed by: Liz B.
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Milton Augustine Williams, Jr

AN APPRECIATION; Remembering Milton Williams, A Mentor to Music Students By BRIAN WISE Published: January 29, 2006

FELLOW teachers, family and students describe Milton Augustine Williams Jr., the father of the actress and singer Vanessa Williams, as a Westchester institution, an optimistic and energetic mentor who taught music for 43 years to more than 10,000 children at Alice E. Grady Elementary School in Elmsford.

Mr. Williams, 70, lived in Millwood. He suffered an acute pancreatic infection while on vacation in the Bahamas with his wife, Helen, and died two days later, on Jan. 17, at the Westchester Medical Center.

Besides being a music teacher, Mr. Williams was an assistant principal from 1960 until 2003, when he retired.

Our father was the true example of a good man, his two children said in a statement. He made a lasting impression on everyone he met and truly changed the lives of all the students he taught.

Mr. Williams was highly regarded for his work in the Westchester arts community, serving as president of the Westchester County School Music Association, heading several all-county music festivals and regularly performing as a tenor in the Westchester Baroque Choir. He was also a Millwood Fire District commissioner and a volunteer firefighter for 18 years. He was a member and past president of the Elmsford Rotary Club.

Carol Franks-Randall, the Elmsford schools superintendent, called Mr. Williams an icon and said he regularly returned after retirement to play at high school concerts. He was kind and he was beloved, she said. He was a mentor to everyone.

Ms. Franks-Randall noted that an estimated 1,000 friends, colleagues, parents and students turned out last Sunday for a memorial service at Alexander Hamilton High School in Elmsford. The service included home videos and a bagpipe performance by the Millwood Fire Company.

He is an institution, said Gary Crew, a fifth-grade teacher at Alice E. Grady who had known Mr. Williams since 1969. He was a 'timeout' guy in the school. If kids were having trouble in other classes, teachers would send their students to Milt. He broke up a lot of confrontational situations. And he never raised his voice.

Mr. Crew related a story told by Mr. Williams's son, Chris, at the memorial service: One time when Chris was being fresh as a 15-year-old, he slammed the door. Milt took the door off the hinges. He said, 'You don't deserve a door right now.' His son responded: 'I should have known. The same thing happened to my sister.'

Tim White, the music teacher at Alice E. Grady, said that Mr. Williams developed an innovative disciplinary program for the school. If a child was placed on this program, he charted the kid's behavior, he said. Anytime they did something they weren't supposed to, the child would speak to Mr. Williams.

Michael Colasuonno, president of the Elmsford Board of Education, said: He was very mild mannered, low key. He loved to teach. I probably wouldn't be off if I said that 75 percent of students in Elmsford learned to play their instruments from Milt.

Mr. Colasuonno recalled the time in the 1980's when the school band was scheduled to play Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture at an outdoor concert. He somehow made a contact with the Army Corps at West Point and enticed them to bring three cannons down, he said. They timed them perfectly with the music. I think the phones were ringing at police headquarters for quite a while.

Mr. Williams was born Oct. 10, 1935, in Oyster Bay, N.Y. He played the tenor saxophone at Oyster Bay High School and later in an Army band while stationed in South Korea. He earned a bachelor's degree in music education from Fredonia College in 1957 and a master's degree from Columbia University in 1959. He and Helen married in 1960 and moved to Millwood in 1964. She also taught music and worked for 38 years in Ossining.

Mr. Williams taught his daughter, Vanessa, to play the French horn and piano. He also gave her voice lessons. She majored in musical theater at Syracuse University. Later in her career, she appeared on Broadway in the Kiss of the Spider Woman and in the revival of Stephen Sondheim's musical Into the Woods.

In 1983, when she became the first black woman to be crowned Miss America, Mr. Williams told The New York Times that he had a family rule that his children must study music until they were 18.

Our philosophy in raising children is teaching them to be independent, he said. Music is the most valuable way of doing that. When you learn an instrument, you have to compliment yourself when you're doing well and correct yourself when you're not.

Mr. Colasuonno said Mr. Williams never flaunted the fact that he had a famous daughter.

Everyone in the district knew Vanessa as she grew up there, he said. He was a real gentleman.

Photos: Milton Williams; The Williams family just before Vanessa was crowned Miss America in 1983. Top, Mr. Williams with his granddaughter, Jillian Hervey. (Photo by Jack Kanthal/Associated Press)

OBITUARY: MILTON AUGUSTINE WILLIAMS JR. from: NYDailyNews.com, Thursday, January 19, 2006, @http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/2006/01/19/2006-01-19_obituary.html

Milton Augustine Williams Jr., father of singer-actress Vanessa Williams and a revered music teacher for 43 years, died Tuesday at Westchester Medical Center of an acute pancreatic infection. He was 70. Williams, who retired as assistant principal of the Alice E. Grady Elementary School in Elmsford, Westchester County, in 2003, was diagnosed with the infection over the weekend while on vacation in the Bahamas with his wife of 45 years, Helen. His death was announced by their daughter, a multiple Grammy and Tony Award-nominated performer and former Miss America, who was at his bedside along with her brother, Chris Williams, an actor who appeared in "Dodgeball." Milton Williams was born in Oyster Bay, L.I., graduated from Fredonia College and received his master's from Columbia University in 1959. Active in Westchester County arts, he was president of the county School Music Association. Besides his wife, daughter and son, survivors include a brother, Earl; two sisters, Millicent Stewart and Imogene Hicks, and four grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Alexander Hamilton High School, 98 S. Goodwin St., Elmsford.

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Milton Williams, Jr's Timeline

1935
October 10, 1935
Oyster Bay, NY, USA
1960
1960
Age 24
1963
March 18, 1963
Age 27
Millwood, NY, USA
2006
January 17, 2006
Age 70
White Plains, NY, USA
????
- present
Valhalla, New York, United States
????
- present
Oyster Bay High School
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- 1957
Fredonia College
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- 1959
Columbia University