School History

  • Joseph A. Williams

    Mr. Joseph Albert Williams

    Mr. Joseph Albert Williams, Jr. was born in Jonesville, Florida in 1873. His family moved to Gainesville when he was young. He attended a local Episcopal school, but found that it was necessary to terminate his schooling in order to support himself and assist his parents.

    In 1881, he married Hattie Carter, and they went on to have 12 children together. Mr. Williams worked as a truck driver, did small scale farming, and later operated a local wood yard. He also served as Superintendent of the Sunday School and was a member of the Steward and Trustee Board at Mount Olive A.M.E.

    At an early age, Mr. Williams developed a set of values which reflected his profound interest in citizenship. He worked diligently with various local civic groups for the promotion of good citizenship.  He was interested in the moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social growth of youth and often spoke about the need for a school in southeast Gainesville for black students. He donated 1.75 acres of land to Alachua County for the purpose of building a school. He also felt that it was important for the school to have a Parent Teacher Association, of which he would be a member.


    The Original School

    On June 13th, 1938, the Board of Public Instruction in Alachua County, FL met to approve Resolution #24 which was the adoption of plans to construct a one-room wood frame school building for Black students in East Gainesville. The vote in favor was unanimous with all 3 members voting. 

    Williams Elementary School opened for the 1938-1939 school year. According to historical records, that one room wood frame building burned down during the same year. On March 15, 1939, Sanford Goin, an architect, was paid $769.40 and contractor F.W. Winston was paid $15,388 for a stone building that included 6 classrooms, an office, and an auditorium which still stands today. This building was built to accommodate 150 students. Its warmth in the winter came from kerosene heaters. The original building did not have air conditioning.


    Present Day 

    The 2023- 2024 school year will mark the school’s 85th year. We currently have about 475 students. Williams Elementary School’s PTA is recognized as the oldest PTA in Alachua County. Williams Elementary continues to be a cornerstone of the SE Gainesville community. With continued support from the community, its residents and community business partners, Williams will continue to blaze a trail that Mr. Williams would be proud of.

    Alachua County Public Schools and Joseph Williams Elementary are seeking candidacy for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme. Once candidacy is approved in Spring of 2024, the authorization process will begin for Williams Elementary School in the fall of 2024. The Joseph Williams Elementary Schoolwide Magnet will offer a stimulating, challenging learning environment that nurtures the whole child and fosters a lifelong love of learning in ALL students. The Joseph Williams Elementary Schoolwide Magnet will cross subject areas and grade levels, and is based on a model that has been successfully implemented in schools throughout the world, including here in Florida. It is recognized internationally for educational excellence.

    Our business partner is Gainesville Regional Utilities. In 2023, they held their 23rd annual Benefit Golf Tournament for Joseph Williams Elementary School.