History/Images of WHS

Walter M. Williams High School, one of the flagship schools of the Alamance-Burlington School System, is a high school (grades 9–12) in Burlington, North Carolina. The school was named in honor of philanthropist, industrialist, and former Burlington City Schools chairman Walter M. Williams. The school entered its seventh decade of operation in 2011.

In past years, the school has been recognized by the United States Department of Education as one of the top six high schools in North Carolina, and received the Blue Ribbon School designation in 1993.. This designation is considered the highest honor that an American school can achieve.[1][2] As of 2008, 30% of the staff held advanced degrees, and eleven staff members held national board teacher certification (2007-08 NC School Report Card).

The school itself has been recognized by the former Ramada Inn Convention Center, where a meeting room was named for the high school (the only high school in the district to be so honored) while all other meeting rooms are named for prominent North Carolina colleges and universities. In addition, the popular Mayberry restaurant across the street is a favorite student hangout and has several items on its menu named in honor of the school's mascot. Artwork by Williams students hangs in the McDonald's on Huffman Mill Road.

The campus is bordered on the north by Sunset Drive and Parkview Drive, to the east by Arlington Avenue, to the southeast by South Church Street (on which street the campus actually has its address), to the south by Country Club Drive (an homage to the property being the former site of a country club), and to the west by Tarleton Avenue. Bulldog Alley, a north–south private campus street, intersects the campus with athletic facilities to the west and academic facilities to the east.



The legacy of Jerome Evans[edit]

Probably the most recognizable and most influential figures in the history of Williams High School is Jerome Evans, legendary former head football coach and the first African-American administrator, topic of the book Black Coach written by Pat Jordan and published by Dodd & Mead of New York. Evan's pioneering role as one of the first African-American football coaches at a predominantly white high school in the South led to him being featured in a 1971 articles in Sports Illustrated titled "The Man Who Was Cut Out For The Job" and later was featured in Pat Jordan's documentary account Black Coach. His work was also discussed in the book Learning To Win: Sports, Education, and Social Change in Twentieth Century North Carolina by Pamela Grundy. He served as assistant principal at Williams for a total of twenty-two years, 1970 to 1992, longer than any other school official.

The Williams High School Memorial Scholarship, which is presented annually to a student who is considered to have made the most significant progress over the course of his or her high school career, is partially named in his memory. In addition, an athletic award is presented in his memory to a student who has overcome obstacles throughout his or her high school athletic experience.

Academy of Finance[edit]

Williams is home to the Academy of Finance, a school within a school that is administered in collaboration with the National Academy Foundation, a national network of high school reform focused smaller learning communities that focus on areas such as health sciences, tourism, entertainment, finance, and other areas of business. The program is unique in that there are less than ten high school campuses in North Carolina that host a program of this type. Established on the campus in 2005, the Academy provides a rigorous curriculum, enhanced by opportunities to build professional relationships with area finance and business leaders, as well as demonstrate relevance through community based internship and service-learning experiences. As part of this small learning community, students have contributed to service and social justice by providing tax assistance to low income families and individuals, some of whom have contributed almost one-hundred service hours to the project annually. In addition, students take college level courses for credit, hear guest presentations from members of the business community, participate in internships, and take exploratory field trips to area colleges and universities. Campuses visited since 2009 include the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University. Field-based experiences allow students to put into practice skills learned in the classroom and interact with members of the business community. In recent years, an extended classroom experience was created which allowed academy students to tour the financial district of New York City, following a similar visit to Washington, D.C. in 2008. Support for the academy from the Burlington business community is facilitated by a community-based advisory board, made up of business leaders, parents, and alumni. A student advisory board allows students to contribute to the decision-making process within the academy as well as develop leadership skills and become engaged in the life of the Academy and school at large. A partnership with Alamance Community College makes the college level coursework possible. Initiated during the administration of former principal Gary Thornburg, the academy is under the direction of Ms. Rhonda Farmer.


Williams has a strong Advanced Placement and Honors program to challenge the upper tier of its students. During the 2008-2009 school year, 211 students took 535 Advanced Placement courses, the highest number of students taking the courses in the district (Burlington Times-News, October 28, 2009). Graduates of Williams have been accepted to notable universities, including Caltech, Davidson College, Duke University, Elon University, George Washington University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, Princeton University, Yale University, Swarthmore, The United States Military Academy, Wake Forest University, Wofford College, George Washington University, The United States Naval Academy, and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The school has an English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Williams school offers three foreign languages: French, Latin, and Spanish. Williams has produced eighteen University of North Carolina Morehead-Cain Scholars (the first being in 1957, and the most recent in 2010), two recipients of the Benjamin Duke Scholarship at Duke University (the most recent in 2010), several North Carolina Teaching Fellows (the most recent in 2011), several North Carolina State University Park Scholars (most recently in 2013), and an Appalachian State Chancellor's Scholarship (most recently in 2009). Students are able to accumulate college credits through collaborative programs with Alamance Community College, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Elon University. One of the school's unique social studies course offerings is a class dedicated to the 1960s. Students have also participated in the annual North Carolina Governor's School program.

Under the leadership of math instructor James Smith, the school has had numerous[specify] state-level Quiz Bowl championships in 1997, 2000, and 2001.[citation needed] http://www.qbwiki.com/wiki/Public_Library_Quiz_Bowl

Williams is one of several area high schools whose students are eligible to participate in the Elon Academy summer college preparatory program at Elon University.

Since its inception, Williams has participated in foreign student exchange programs several times. The school has hosted students from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay, Serbia, and Sweden.


As of the spring of 2014, nationalities represented in the student body in recent years included the United States, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, El Salvador, Greece, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Korea, Kosovo, Mexico, New Zealand (Māori), Nicaragua, Pakistan, Palestine, Peru, and Vietnam. Demographically, the student population is 52% white, 32% African-American, 10% Hispanic, 4% Asian, and 2% multiracial. The school runs on a 4×4 block schedule, and is known for its imposing facade and sweeping front lawn.

Partnerships with Elon University[edit]

Along with the other high schools in Alamance County, selected students from Williams are able to participate in the Elon Academy summer residential program on the campus of Elon University. Students are eligible to take college courses during the regular school year. Williams hosts student teachers from Elon on a regular basis.

Student government, service, and engagement[edit]

During the 1960s, an intricate student government organization was in place that maximized student potential and manpower. The student body's constitution, adopted in 1965 and signed by then principal Jesse W. Harrington, hangs in the East Spiral Stairwell, just off the main floor. In addition to the representative body, an executive board and an inter-club council was in place. The inter-club council was responsible for approving all new student organizations. Various committees allowed students to have the opportunity to have a direct influence on creating a sense of school community, and oversee the student government election process, and activities such as homecoming. In addition, students provided leadership through serving as hall monitors, parking lot monitors, and in an advisory capacity to the cafeteria management. At one time, a diversity task force helped address issues surrounding integration in the early 1970s. A Student Voice committee provided an avenue by which students and administration could dialogue on issues of mutual concern. The Student Government Association also ran a school store, located in the East (or Administrative) Wing, just off the Main Hall. Though the store no longer operates, a sign reading "School Store" still hangs over the door, and just inside the door a shelf comes down where transactions took place. Just inside the door to the left are the names of Student Government officers who operated the store. The room is now used for storage and technology support. A 1960s era manuscript of the student body constitution, signed by Principal Jesse W. Harrington, hangs in the east spiral stairwell just off the main floor.

During the integration of the Jordan Sellars student body into the Williams campus, a task force of six students each from the former Sellars student body and Williams laid the groundwork for combining the traditions and rules of the two schools into one. In the fall of 1974, the students instituted the Senate-House system of student government (not in place as of 2009-10).

Students participate in summer leadership programs such as Boys State and the Hugh O'Brien Leadership Seminar. In addition, students serve in leadership roles for the Alamance Youth Leadership Academy, an initiative to teach leadership skills to area middle school students. Since 1999, students have also participated in the Congressional Youth Leadership Council.


The school was named for Walter McAdoo Williams (March 1, 1891 – May 5, 1959), a native of Liberty, Randolph County, North Carolina, and son of Joel P. and Flora A. Spoon Williams. Considered a "giant in the textile world", he was a member of the Board of Trustees of what is now Wake Forest University and a local citizen recognized for his role in making the high school possible from a financial standpoint. In April 1912, at the age of twenty-one, he moved to Graham, North Carolina. From 1930 to 1940, he had served as Chair of the Burlington School District's school board. He was also executive vice-president and chairman of the board of Virginia Mills, based in Swepsonville, North Carolina. In 1940, he became executive vice-president and chairman of the board for Virginia Cotton Mills in Swepsonville, from which he retired on February 17, 1959. In 1945, the Williams' made the purchase of the campus land possible. When the possibility was raised that the seating capacity in the proposed auditorium would be substantially cut back, they made it possible to retain the planned 2,500 seat capacity. It is believed that the auditorium is the second largest high school auditorium on the east coast. They also donated the auditorium's organ as well as a Steinway grand piano. They were very resistant to the idea of the school being named for them. A member of both Kiwanis and Lions, Williams actively supported the Baptist Orphanage in Thomasville, North Carolina and the Masonic Orphanage in Oxford, North Carolina. The Williams' had no children of their own. In 1950, Williams was named Citizen of the Year by the Burlington Kiwanis Club.[1]

Williams served on the Board of Trustees of Wake Forest University during the period of the institution's transition from rural Wake County to Winston-Salem. In addition to the Williams' contributions to the high school, the organ in Wait Chapel on the Reynolda campus of Wake Forest University is named in honor of he and his wife Flonie Cooper Williams (1893–1975). The Williams donated the organ at Wake Forest in 1956. In addition, a three-manual Reuter organ was given and installed as a memorial to Williams in Binkley Chapel on the Olde Campus of Wake Forest. The Williams' were active in Hocutt Memorial Baptist Church. It is interesting to note that the school's colors of black and gold are the same as those of Wake Forest University, an institution with which Williams had ties. Williams was also a trustee for North Carolina Baptist Hospital.

Ironically, Mr. Williams stopped attending school at age twelve and was largely self-taught.

Williams died on May 5, 1959, after spending seven months in a coma following suffering from a brain tumor. He is buried in Pine Hill Cemetery, only a few blocks from campus, and almost within view of the school.

The Burlington Board of Education had voted in November 1945 to name the school after Williams. However, the decision was not announced until October 27, 1949.[1]

Mascot and traditions[edit]

The school seal was approved by vote of the student body on September 29, 1961, as was the school's Alma Mater, with words by athletic director Fred Miller and music by Harold Grant, director of bands. The seal was among forty potential seals submitted for consideration. The creator of the winning design received a prize of $7.00. The fightsong Onward Bulldogs is set to the tune of On Wisconsin.

The mascot is the bulldog, which has manifested itself over the years by costumed students and real dogs (one of which was named George I). An avant-garde statue of George was dedicated outside the auditorium in 1974 in memory of Cynthia Lemar Ledbetter (a student who died in 1971) and other deceased students. The statue which sits prominently on a pedestal in Bulldog Plaza on the east side of campus, is a focal point of school-wide celebrations, and is an object of scorn and derision of students from rival high schools. It was designed by sculptor Norman Keller of East Carolina University (The Barker, December 16, 1971).

School colors are black and gold, the same colors as Wake Forest University, where Williams served on the Board of Trustees.

The names of the yearbook is the Doe-Wah-Jack, an American Indian term meaning "the first, the best" and has been the name of the yearbook since the school opened in 1951 (and had been the name of the Burlington High School yearbook since 1926).

The newspaper is The Barker, taking its title from the sound made by the mascot. The newspaper has received awards from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.

Upon the consolidation of the former Jordan Sellars High School into Williams at the time of school integration, a student task force representative of both schools attempted to incorporate traditions from both schools into the newly integrated Williams (1999 Williams Alumni Directory).


On October 27, 1949, the school board announced its decision to name the facility "Walter M. Williams High School." It was constructed as the successor campus to Burlington High School.

The school was built on the site of the former Piedmont Country Club. "The land the school is on was once a golf course; hence, the name Country Club Dr[ive]. About ... 42 acres [of the country club were] auctioned off in September 1945 or 1946. Walter Williams bought the land from the estate of Ben May. The clubhouse (now a house) sits across from the stadium.".[2]

The stadium on the site, now known as Burlington City Schools Stadium, was dedicated on Veteran's Day, November 11, 1949. The field house was also completed in the late 1940s.

Construction began on the main building in 1949. Two cornerstones flanking the base of the front stairwell, one reading "AD" and the other "1949" attest to this fact (the cornerstone contains a sealed copper box including financial records and newspaper clippings from the period of the school's construction). The 1951 graduating class from the former Burlington High School graduated on the stage of the Williams High School Auditorium in the spring of 1951, some three months before the new school officially opened.

Williams High officially opened its doors on September 5, 1951, with an enrollment approaching 1,000 (today, it has a student body approaching 1300, and in the early 1970s surpassed 1700) and a staff of 43 (as of November 2008, the school has a combined certified and classified staff of 124). The first student to arrive at school that day was Roger Cheek, who thus might be compared to Carolina's Hinton James, and be considered Williams' "first student." Jack Lindley was the first student body president.

What is now Spikes Gymnasium was completed by the opening of school in September 1955. The "Spikes Spaz" are the student supporters of Williams High's basketball teams, named for the gym's namesake, and patterned after the "Cameron Crazies" of Duke University. Prior to the completion of the gym, students in P.E. classes showered in restrooms adjacent to the cafeteria. The showers remain intact to this day. The gym was the scene of the highest points scored by any one player in the 1960s when Pistol Pete Maravich played against the Bulldogs while a student at Raleigh's Needham B. Broughton High School. The gym was the scene of a pivotal event during the period of integration.

During the 1956-1957 school year, classrooms in the west wing on the Ground Floor served as overflow space for fifth grade students from nearby Hillcrest Elementary School.

Prior to the school district merger between the Burlington City Schools and the Alamance County Schools (creating the Alamance-Burlington School System in 1996), Williams was one of two high schools in the former Burlington City Schools district, along with Hugh Cummings High School, which was constructed in the early 1970s to accommodate the expanded student population at Williams. Prior to integration, Williams was historically white, while Jordan Sellars High School across town was historically black. The period surrounding integregation at Williams is documented in the book Black Coach.

Elvis Presley performed at Williams on February 15, 1956, at 8:00pm. Other performers scheduled for the two-hour performance included Justin Tubb (son of Ernest Tubb), Benny Martin, and "Mother Maybelle" Carter with June Carter (later June Carter Cash). Though little more is known about the concert itself, it is known that he stopped at Brightwood Restaurant on Highway 70 en route to Greensboro after the concert, where he ordered a burger and a glass of milk. The booth where he sat has been preserved with a portrait overhead. The waitress who served him that night still works there. Buddy Rich also performed at the school in the 1950s. Poet and novelist Flannery O'Connor has also appeared at Williams, along with author Timothy Tyson, who wrote Blood Done Sign My Name, 2005 summer reading selection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the inspiration of a movie by the same title released in the 1980s. William C. Friday, president of the University of North Carolina from 1956 to 1985, was the featured speaker at an awards assembly in the 1980s. Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel has also spoken at the school. Judge Henry Frye, the first African-American chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court also spoke at the school, as has Lonice Bias, mother of University of Maryland basketball player Len Bias.

Prior to the completion of the "Tobacco Road" stretch of Interstate 85 through Alamance County in 1960, US Route 70 (which runs concurrent with Church Street) was a major east–west route, placing the school on a major thoroughfare, which most likely led to the academic landmark becoming very familiar with east–west travelers.

In the fall of 1960, ninth grade students began attending what was then the newly opened Turrentine Junior High School. Ninth graders did not attend Williams again until after the former Jordan Sellars campus was no longer used as a ninth grade center. Following a 1971 desegregation order which sought to eliminate racial segregation at Sellars Gunn, ninth grade students were sent to Sellars Gunn. Eventually, the Jordan Sellars campus transitioned into a campus to house alternative educational programs in 1995, and both Williams and the Hugh M. Cummings campus returned to a four-year format in 1982.

Like many cities in the south, Burlington experienced tension during the period of integration in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Prior to the appointment of Evans as head coach, a sit-in was held on the front lawn to communicate concerns about a lack of diversity on the cheerleading squad. Following the sit-in, a march to the school district office was held. This period in history was explored in Daniel Koehler's documentary Burlington: A City Divided, which was featured at the Reynolda Film Festival at Wake Forest University in the spring of 2010, at which director Spike Lee, known for his films on themes of social justice, was the featured guest speaker (http://www.yesweekly.com/article-9004-reynolda-film-festival-remains-true-to-its-vision.html).

The 1975-1976 school year marked the national bicentennial, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the opening of Williams, and the fiftieth anniversary of the school's yearbook, the Doe-Wah-Jack, as it had been the name of the yearbook at the former Burlington High School. According to Gillespie, yearbook staff members who saw the word on a local stove found out that the name is an American Indian word meaning "the first, the best". The name was submitted to student and was chosen as the name of the yearbook (V. Gillispie).

In 1986, a fire in a chemistry lab caused several thousand dollars worth in damage. Three football coaches who were in the building took turns crawling along the floor to put the fire out (Wilmington Star News).

Predecessor schools[edit]

The original Burlington High School was located on Broad Street, and served students until 1951. It is from this school that the names of the yearbook and student newspaper are carried on.

Jordan Sellars High School, a historically black institution, closed its doors in 1970, at which time all of its students were integrated into the student body at Williams.

In 1971, the Burlington City Schools were placed under a court order to integrate, leading to ongoing federal court supervision of the school system's operations (as well as those of the subsequent Alamance Burlington School System).

The 1971 order sought to eliminate racial segregation at was Jordan Sellars, which the federal court determined was being operated as a racially identifiable school in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pursuant to the order, the former Burlington City District attempted to end segregation at what was now Sellars-Gunn by converting it into a junior high school for all Burlington ninth grade students, regardless of race. Sellars-Gunn remained a ninth-grade school from 1971 until 1982, when it was closed and its students were moved to the two high schools - Cummings High and Williams High (Caron Myers press release, July 20, 2009).

In 1995, Sellars-Gunn re-opened as an alternative education center. It houses several of the school system's alternative education programs, including a Career-Technical Education program and a voluntary program for students suspended for more than 10 days from other Alamance-Burlington schools (Caron Myers press release, July 20, 2009).

Feeder schools[edit]

Most ninth graders previously attended nearby Turrentine Middle School, constructed in the early 1960s. The four elementary schools that ultimately feed into Williams are Smith, Grove Park, Highland, and Hillcrest.

In addition, some students from Blessed Sacrament School and Burlington Day School choose to attend Williams upon reaching ninth grade.


One of the most historically architecturally unique high school buildings still in use in North Carolina, it is three stories tall, centered around an interior courtyard area now used for parking. Unique in architectural style, it is reminiscent of the classic industrial-like high school architecture representative of the 1950s. The main academic building consists of three wings: the Main Wing, the East Wing, and the West Wing. From above, the building looks like a dogbone.

The main wing includes the cafeteria, the historic academic hall, and classrooms. The east wing includes office facilities, the media center, classrooms, and the Academy of Finance. The west wing includes science and home economics classrooms.

The cafeteria (lunchroom) is furnished like a 1950s diner. When the school was originally constructed, the cafeteria's service area contained separate restrooms for "white and colored help",[3] thus accounting for two sets of men's and women's restrooms being located virtually side by side. After a renovation in the summer of 2009, the cafeteria was outfitted with four HDTV televisions that display menus.

Just off the south hall of the second floor of the West Wing is what was initially designed as the Home Economics Suite, designed to provide a "homelike" area for home economics (family and consumer sciences) instruction, and includes a replicated living room area (now used as a faculty workroom/conference room), complete with fireplace, along with a replicated bedroom (which now serves as an assistant principal's office) and dining room, which now serves as a faculty office. This area adjoins the room in which food service classes are taught. The door leading into the area resembles that of a front door to a home.

The auditorium is one of the largest auditoriums in North Carolina, with more seats than auditoriums at many major universities (UNCG's Aycock Auditorium was originally built to seat only a hundred or so than the Williams auditorium seats). The "auditorium seats over 2100 and includes a balcony that makes it reminiscent of a traditional downtown theatre. Because it is the largest facility of its kind in Alamance County, the auditorium is used for many outside performances and graduations, as well as Williams' school functions" ("Williams High Auditorium" greeting card, back side). At the time of construction, it was said to be second only to Raleigh's Memorial Auditorium in terms of seating capacity.[3] includes a pipe organ donated by the Williams', a rarity among even older high schools, which is generally used only during commencement exercises. Its dedicatory concert was performed by world-renowned concert organist Virgil Fox on October 19, 1951. The Burlington newspaper billed the organ as one of "the largest organ installations in the South." French organist Pierre Cochereau has performed there as well. The auditorium was the first part of the facility to be completed, and was used for the Burlington High School Class of 1951's commencement ceremony before the completion of the rest of the building. Thrice in the 1950s, the Miss North Carolina Pageant was held here.

During the early years of the school, there was a designated student "smoking room" where students, with parental permission, were allowed to go smoke after lunch. Students were required to show a red card to the faculty members (later student government officers) that supervised the room.

A street known as "Bulldog Alley" intersects the campus, with the main school building on the east side of the street, with major athletic facilities on the west side of the street.

The third part of the main building to be constructed is the Spikes Gymnasium. The gymnasium was named in honor of Dr. Lewis Everett Spikes on June 13, 1993. Dr. Spikes served as Superintendent of the Burlington City Schools from 1936 to 1963.

Athletic facilities include the Tommy Spoon Memorial Field House (named in memory of a star member of the football team and former athletic director who died in the late 1990s), the Kernodle football field, and the 10,000 seat Burlington City Schools stadium.[4]

The campus is also known for its vast front lawn that faces South Church Street. The area, which is protected from development by city ordinance, hosts youth soccer events and is a seating area for community fireworks displays.

Renovations begun during the summer of 2008 on the Second Floor have vastly improved the library facilities, as well as lighting. Renovations are expected to continue on the remainder of the main building over the next several summers.

Service clubs[edit]

Throughout the school's history, major service clubs have included the Key Club and the former Keywannettes (known as the Keyettes prior to being chartered at Williams as the Keywannettes in 1977, a female counterpart to Key Club prior to the 1976 international vote to admit female students), and the Junior Civitans (and the former Civanettes for female students). Both organizations were represented among the school's co-curricular offerings when the school initially opened.

According to Kiwanis International, the organization date of the Key Club is May 26, 1947, which would indicate that the club's charter was carried over from the former Burlington High School, which would indicate that the club is one of few students organizations to actually predate the opening of the present facility (E-mail from Nikki Reynolds, KI Member Services Representative, August 14, 2008). Over the course of the Key Club's history, several district and international officers have come from Williams, including two district secretaries, two district governors, and four international trustees (Carolina Key, 2008). During the 1970s, the Key Club members at Williams were informally referred to as "the Keys" in the student newspaper. Additionally, during the 1970s the service clubs saw a fraternity/sorority like "rush" process of new member recruitment which including formal teas, visitations, and "pledging."

Interact (sponsored by Rotary International) is inactive at Williams, as is a fourth group, the school's Junior Exchange Club, now known as Excel Clubs.

Honor societies[edit]

An organization that predated the opening of the school was the Burlington Chapter of the National Honor Society which was chartered on November 7, 1930 on the campus of the former Burlington High School. As the National Honor Society itself was formed in 1921, this would make the Williams chapter one of the oldest continuously operating chapters in the nation. The charter date of the now defunct Quill and Scroll chapter at Williams was listed as 1938, thereby being another organization carried over from the former Burlington High School. Other active honor societies include the National Art Honor Society, the Latin Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society, the French Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta math honor society, and the National Career/Technical Honor Society. The school's Tri-M Music Honor Society chapter was chartered in February 2000. However, the chapter has been inactive since 2005.

Career and technical student organizations[edit]

The school's award-winning DECA chapter (formerly known as Distributive Education Clubs of America), is advised by Williams faculty member and alumnus Rhonda Farmer. At the 2011 North Carolina state conference, three students qualified to compete at the International DECA career development conference, held in Orlando, Florida.

In addition, the school hosts chapters of FCCLA, FBLA, and HOSA.

Athletics (overview)[edit]

Williams Bulldogs
School Walter M. Williams High School
Conference Mid-State
North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3A
Athletic director Kyle Hayes
Location Burlington, North Carolina
Varsity teams 17 varsity teams
Football stadium Kernodle Field at Burlington Memorial Stadium
Basketball arena Spikes Gymnasium
Nickname Bulldogs
Fight song Onward Bulldogs
Colors Black and Gold
Website Walter M. Williams High School - Athletics Home

The school's athletic program consists of the following sports: tennis, cross-country, football, basketball, soccer, swimming, golf, track & field, wrestling, baseball, softball, and lacrosse, introduced in Spring of 2010.

The lacrosse program was started by a group of Williams' parents and the first lacrosse coach was Stephen Bailey, who is also the head coach of the Elon University men's lacrosse team. The current Varsity lacrosse coach is Hugh Fiery.

The 1952 baseball team won the North Carolina AAA championship.

For many years, the athletic facilities were utilized by sports teams from Elon University.

Football program[edit]

The first football coach, Stan Huffman, had served on the coaching staff at Burlington High School before joining Williams during its inaugural year, serving as head coach until 1954. In 2010, he was presented an award at the annual Alamance County high school football press conference.

The second coach, Richard "Bud" Phillips, served from 1954 to 1957. A native of Guilford County, Phillips graduated from the former Burlington High School, and earned an athletic scholarship to Wake Forest College to play baseball and football. Following his freshman year, Phillips served in the United States Army during World War II. He completed his Wake Forest education after serving his military duty. In 1957 Mr. Phillips left Williams to become the high school football coach at Junius H. Rose High School in Greenville, North Carolina, and in 1970 became the athletic director, retiring in 1991. Phillips was honored twice as the Athletic Director of the year in North Carolina, in 1982 and 1987 and served as president of the North Carolina Athletic Director's Association from 1981 to 1982. He served on the board of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, representing the Southeastern section of the country and received that organization's Distinguished Service Award in 1982. He also received the NIAAA's State Award of Merit in 1988, the first year it was presented. At the time of his retirement from Rose in 1991, Phillips was the longest serving faculty member at Rose, having served since the school opened in 1957, a period of almost thirty-five years.

Upon Phillips' departure for Greenville in 1957, Bill England was appointed coach, and served until 1960.

From 1960 to 1970, the team was led by Cicero Abraham Frye. Frye was a 1951 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who came to Williams in 1956 as the assistant football coach and head basketball coach, after having served as basketball coach at Pfeiffer College. He became head football coach after the departure of Coach England in 1961. Upon his replacement by Jerome Thomas Evans, left to coach at Gibsonville High School in 1970. His career and personality is described to some extent in the book Black Coach in the context of the circumstances surrounding his departure. Serving as head coach for ten years, Coach Frye had the longest period of service as head coach until this record was broken in 1994 by Coach Story.

The career of football coach Jerome Evans, who served from 1970 to 1976, is documented in the book Black Coach by Pat Jordan (published by Dodd Mead of New York in 1971), which also documents related racial tensions in the community at that time. A graduate of North Carolina Central University, Evans was appointed as head coach in the fall of 1970 during the period of integration. Evans was briefly alluded to in the film Remember the Titans (which tells the story of a football team at another Williams High School located in Virginia).

In the fall of 1976, when Coach Evans turned to administrative duties full-time, a new head football coach, Pete Stout, was hired, and the Williams athletic program changed from class 4-A to class 3-A. The 1980 football team won the state championship, the first for Williams. A second state championship was won in 1981. During each of these years, the Bulldogs won 14 games, and lost 0, a record that has not been matched either before or after these two seasons.

Sam Story, who served from the early 1980s until his retirement in 2008, was the North Carolina head coach for the 2007 Shrine Bowl game, and coached for a number of years at Duke University. In 2007, the football field was named in honor of Dr. Kernodle, the long-time football team physician, who continues to support the Bulldogs to this day. During the 2002 season, head coaching responsibilities were shared with Williams alumnus and faculty member David Grant. Under Story's leadership, state championships were won in 1985 and 1999.

From 2008 to 2010, the team was led by Scott Frazier, a Williams alumnus, formerly on the staff of Western Carolina University, Elon University, where he served as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, and Presbyterian College, where he served as the offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Prior to joining the Elon staff, Frazier was a graduate assistant coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for three years, where he served under head coach John Bunting, spending the 2001 and 2002 seasons as the Tar Heels' assistant offensive line coach. He also served as a defensive graduate assistant for the Tar Heels in 1996, under head coach Mack Brown. At Williams, he had played under Coach Storey in the late 1980s, and had served as defensive line coach at Williams during the fall of 2004.

David Green came to Williams as head coach in 2011 from Leesville Road High School in Raleigh.

The team plays schools in Alamance, Guilford, and Rockingham counties.

Fine arts[edit]

The arts program is very large at Williams. Visual art, pottery, band, orchestra, chorus, Musical theater, and modern dance are among the opportunities available to students. The Marching Bulldogs perform at all home football games and select away games. An art show is held each spring, featuring student work as well as the work of visiting local artists.

The chorus, previously under the direction of University of North Carolina at Greensboro graduate Laura Sam until her retirement in 2013 but recently under the direction of Lucas Cecil (also a graduate of UNCG and former student of Sam), program puts on a homecoming show starring George Bulldog and a musical revue in the spring. In recent years auditioned members from the choral groups have also performed internationally in Italy and Austria. Sam was named 2007 choral director of the year by the North Carolina Music Educators Association. Students have been selected to participate in the North Carolina High School Honors Chorus, most recently in 2009. Sam inherited an outstanding program of choral music instruction and performance that was begun at WHS by Eva Wiseman (music supervisor of the then-Burlington City Schools - and founder of the Burlington Boys' Choir), and developed by successors 'Edgar von Lehm, Erving Covert (who began the Homecoming Show tradition), and Thomasene Sparks (who had directed choruses at feeder schools, Turrentine Junior High and Sellars-Gunn Junior High).

The band program has received extensive recognition at contests and festivals over the years. The Marching Bulldogs were the official marching band of the 2007 Shrine Bowl. The band is under the direction of James Brewer, a 2007 graduate of the Elon University.

Award-winning orchestral groups have traveled to competitions in New York City and Gatlinburg, Tennessee in recent years. The orchestra program is now led my Veronica M. Allen, a graduate of UNCG and a former member of the tri-m music honors society.


The first principal, Calvin C. Linnemann, served from 1951 to 1957. He had served as principal of Burlington High School, and was a published author in the NASSP Journal. He was also a Sunday School teacher at Burlington's First Baptist Church and was later superintendent of schools.

The second principal of Williams, Lester R. Ridenhour (1915–1985) served from 1957 to 1960. He had served as principal of Broad Street School (the former campus of Burlington High School), and prior to that as assistant principal of Williams. In 1983, he received the Outstanding Alumni Award from East Carolina University, where he had completed degrees in 1939 and 1949. While at East Carolina, he played baseball, football, basketball, and tennis. He was inducted into the East Carolina University Sports Hall of Fame in 1979 (www.ecupirates.com). The Lester R. Ridenhour Memorial Scholarship is presented to residents of Alamance County who attend East Carolina University.

The third principal of Williams, Cleet C. Cleetwood (1923–2007), a 1943 graduate of Appalachian State University, served an abbreviated administration from 1960 to 1962, at which time he was scheduled to be reassigned to the central office, but turned in his resignation instead (later serving as Superintendent of the Greenville City Schools system in Pitt County, c. 1971). At Appalachian, he had lettered "in football, basketball and baseball, (later) he was called into service with the U.S. Air Force, serving during World War II as a B-17 navigator. He enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he earned his master's degree and lettered in varsity baseball. Prior to coming to Williams, he had begun his career in education coaching football, basketball and baseball at Rocky Mount High School in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Following a period of playing professional baseball, he began work at Duke University toward his doctoral degree." (http://www.thepilot.com/stories/20070529/news/obits/20070529Cleetwood.html). Even into his late 70s, he played basketball with the state senior games (The Pilot, January 30, 2000).

The fourth principal of Williams, Jesse Weldon Harrington, who came to Williams from New Hanover High School in Wilmington, North Carolina was the longest serving principal, serving from 1962 through 1978. Born and raise in Moncure in adjacent Chatham County, he earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from what is now Elon University. He was serving as principal during the period covered in the book Black Coach in which author Pat Jordan described him as exhibiting a "busy but relaxed exterior" (Jordan, Black Coach, p. 136). He is the only former principal at the school to have a scholarship exclusively for Williams High seniors named in his honor. Mr. Harrington now lives in the Wilmington area.

The school had three principals n the 1980s. Marsh Lyall served as the fifth principal from 1979 to 1983. Lyall departed to assume the superintendency of the Wilkes County Schools.

Clinton E. Leggett served as the sixth principal from 1983 to 1986.

After serving as principal, the seventh principal of Williams, Harold Brewer (1986–1992) later served as Superintendent of Montgomery County Schools (from 1996–2001), and later Senior Associate for Organizational Development for Durham Public Schools (from 2001–2002)and then as Sr. VP for Programs for the Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning, based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Prior to 1996, he was the assistant director of the Principals' Executive Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for two years. For a time, he was also Assistant Superintendent for Burlington City Schools. Prior to coming to Williams, he had served as an administrator in Duplin County and Moore County, as well as eight years of business management in the textile industry. Brewer held an ED. Specialist, (6yr) degree in school administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; a master's degree in school administration from Appalachian State University; and a bachelorˆs degree in psychology from what is now the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He has served as Senior Vice-President for Programs for the Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning based in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was Brewer who set the goal of achieving distinction as a Blue Ribbon School. A reminder of the Brewer era is the phrase "Brewer the Great" inscribed in concrete on a sidewalk running parallel to Bulldog Alley. Mr. Brewer's son served as student body president one year.

These were followed by the eighth principal, James Daye (1992–1994), who had served as principal of Watauga High School in Boone, and had served at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and the ninth principal, Donald Andrews (1994–1996). Andrews later served as superintendent of the Harnett County Schools, and since 2005 has served as Superintendent of the Randolph County Schools, southwest of Burlington.

Phillip Deadmon served as the tenth principal from 1996 to 2001. Upon his retirement, Jack Butler served as interim principal in 2001.

Gary Thornburg, who in June 2010 retired from the principalship of Cedar Ridge High School, served as principal from 2001 to 2005. Mr. Thornburg was recognized as the 2005 Regional Wachovia Principal of the Year. It was during Thornburg's administration that the Academy of Finance was established.

Dr. George W. Griffin, formerly of Apex High School and North Carolina Central University served from 2005 to 2007.

Nola Taylor, the school's first female principal, was appointed in 2007, and served until 2011. Ms. Taylor, a graduate of Indiana University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro came from principalships in Guilford County Schools. She now serves with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

Dr. Joe Ferrell was named as Ms. Taylor's successor in July 2011. At the time of his appointment, he had served as principal at Eastern Guilford Middle School since 2004, and had served as principal at Hunter Elementary School in Greensboro. In Person County, he taught at the elementary and middle school levels, and served as an assistant principal at Northern Middle School in Roxboro. Ferrell holds degrees from Elon University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Here are listed the principals in chronological order:

  1. Calvin C. Linnemann (1951–1957, six years)
  2. Lester R. Riderhour (1957–1960, three years)
  3. C. C. Cleetwood (1960–1962, two years)
  4. Jesse W. Harrington (1962–1978, sixteen years)
  5. Marsh Lyall (1979–1983, four years)
  6. Clinton E. Leggett (1983–1986, three years)
  7. Harold Brewer (1986–1992, six years)
  8. James Daye (1992–1994, two years)
  9. Donald Andrews (1994–1996, two years)
  10. Phillip Deadmon (1996–2001, five years)
  11. Jack Butler (2001, interim)
  12. Gary Thornburg (2001–2005, four years)
  13. George Griffin (2005–2007, two years)
  14. Nola Taylor (2007–2011, four years)
  15. Dr. Joe Ferrell (2011–2016, five years)

With the exception of Jesse W. Harrington (who served for sixteen years), no principal has served longer than six years. As many as seven other principal's terms can be included in the length of Harrington's term.

The current assistant principal team consists of Yolanda Anderson, Robert Drummond and Bear Bryant. While there have been approximately forty assistant principals since the school's opening in 1951, perhaps the best known and most influential is Jerome Evans, who was appointed assistant principal at the same time he became head football coach in 1970. Although known primarily for his coaching role, his administrative leadership ensured a peaceful transition through the period of integration, serving as assistant principal for over two decades. His life story and influence is still taught to students as part of the curriculum of the history course covering the 1960s. Another former assistant principal, Lairron G. Guthrie, concurrently served as Mayor of Burlington from 1973 to 1975, and later served as guidance counselor. Dr. Patricia Bason served as assistant principal from 1983 to 1988, and later served on the faculty of Elon University. She was succeeded by Shirley Faircloth, who served from 1988 to 1997. Ms. Faircloth had taught English, served as advisor to The Barker for fourteen years, and founded the Williams English Honor Society. Although she served as assistant principal for nine years, her total length of service at Williams was twenty-nine years. John Heath served from 2008 to 2012, having served at Cedar Ridge High School. Kent Byrd served from 1998 to 2000, and later served as principal of Southern Alamance High School before joining the staff of the central office.

Faculty, alumni, and notable people[edit]


The images above were taken on September 29th, 2008