Local woman marches alongside President Obama

Thompson High School graduate Tammy Williams, far left, third from front, marches alongside President Barack Obama and the first family in Selma on March 7. (Contributed)

Thompson High School graduate Tammy Williams, far left, third from front, marches alongside President Barack Obama and the first family in Selma on March 7. (Contributed)

By GINNY COOPER MCCARLEY / Special to the Reporter

Tammy Taylor Williams had no expectations when she wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, recalling her experience as the first black student at Thompson Elementary School in 1969.

Williams included details about the one girl who befriended her, Kelly Butler, and her teacher, Ms. Gleason, who walked her to class and watched out for her on the playground.

“I wrote it during black history month. I didn’t think of being invited anywhere,” Williams said.

So when someone from the White House called Williams on Monday, March 2, she thought it was a prank from a morning radio show and promptly hung up the phone.

“When they called the first time and said it was the White House, I hung the phone up,” Williams said with a laugh.

It was only when the White House called a second time that Williams learned her letter had earned her a VIP ticket to the 50th anniversary of the “Blood Sunday” march in Selma, along with invitations for Butler and Gleason as well.

“When I found out actually it was real I was so excited, I called everyone I knew,” Williams said.

Williams joined thousands in Selma on Sunday, March 8, marching directly behind President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Malia and Sasha.

“It was an experience,” said Williams, recalling she was too nervous to ask for a picture when she met the president.

“I just said, ‘You have a nice day, sir,’” Williams said.

Williams also marched along with some of the Freedom Fighters, who told her their own stories.

“One guy showed me his head, where he got hit by a stick covered in barbed wire,” Williams said. “It felt really good walking with someone who helped me get the vote.”