Eldridge Williams papers
Scope and Contents
This collection consists of an oral history interview transcript of a retired African American lieutenant colonel, and one of the Tuskegee Airmen, as he discusses his experiences during WWII and the Korean War.
- created: 1940-1963
- Other: Date acquired: 07/26/2001
- Williams, Eldridge (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open to all researchers.
Conditions Governing Use
All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.
Biographical or Historical Information
Eldridge Williams was born on November 2, 1917 in Washington County, Texas and passed away on July 2, 2015. Williams lived on a plantation for the first few years of his life. He then followed his mother as she worked on farms from Texas to Oklahoma. He frequently changed schools due to their travels, but graduated in 1934 from Sam Schwartz High School. He completed an Associate Degree in Business Administration at Western University, a historically black college, in Quindaro, Kansas. He then attended Xavier University in New Orleans to pursue a Bachelors in Education. The draft began in 1940 and, upon hearing of his selection, Williams requested an extension in order to complete his Bachelors. He graduated in June 1941 and the Army called him on August 4, 1941. The army sent Williams to an induction center at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas where he lived with the 10th Calvary. During his flight physical at Fairfax Airport, the commandant diagnosed Williams with a non-existent condition, rejected his physical, and disqualified him from re-examination. Williams went to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri for basic training as part of Company A, 35th Engineer Training Battallion. They pulled Williams out of field training and assigned him to clerk duty. In December 1941, he was promoted to sergeant and offered a permanent clerk position. While his unit shipped out at the start of the war, Williams remained and received a promotion to First Sergeant. He applied for Army Air Corps officer training and received authorization in August 1942. Williams trained in Miami Beach, Florida, the only black soldier in the outfit, alongside celebrities Hank Greenberg, Bruce Cabot, Tony Martin, and Clark Gable. Williams received his commission October 28, 1942 and was sent to the Tuskegee campus and Army Airfield as the director of physical fitness and survival training. Their program included football and basketball programs. Williams described numerous accounts of racism off-base during his time at Tuskegee. After Tuskegee closed, Williams started as head basketball coach at A&T College in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1948, he reported to Lockcourne Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio for the Berlin Airlift Crisis. In the same year, Truman integrated the armed forces and Williams received the honor of being the last officer to leave and lock the gates on "the Tuskegee experiment." Williams applied for different positions and was sent to Okinawa before the Korean War started. He remained in Okinawa for the duration of the war. The army then sent him to Tennessee State University to set up a ROTC program. Williams trained as a fighter intercept controller at Tyndall Field in Panama City, Florida. Eventually, he worked on a highly classified assignment on behalf of President Eisenhower. Williams retired from the military in 1963, ranked Lieutenant Colonel. He taught and then entered administration as executive director of personnel, helping to integrate the public schools, in Dade County, Florida for twenty more years. President George W. Bush presented Williams with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007 and President Obama invited Williams to attend his inauguration.
Note written by Jenna Pope
Language of Materials
Transferred from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience to FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives in July 2022.
Source of Acquisition
Method of Acquisition
Donated to the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience.
- African American men
- African American soldiers--Biography
- African American veterans--Biography
- African Americans
- African Americans--Employment
- African Americans--Florida
- Families, Black
- Football Programs
- Korean War, 1950-1953
- Physical Education
- Race discrimination--United States
- U.S. American Films
- United States--Armed Forces--African Americans
- World War, 1939-1945
- World War, 1939-1945--African Americans
- Eldridge Williams papers
- Jenna Pope
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note