Hard work makes Jackie Hart-Williams the easy choice


Jackie Hart-Williams, who served for two decades as the executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida, is this year's winner of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2006 at 10:35 p.m.

Facts

Hart-Williams to be inducted on Sunday

What: Jackie Hart-Williams will be inducted into the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hall of Fame at the 21st Annual Hall of Fame Banquet. Also, Bonita Parker, chief operating officer of Rainbow Push Coalition, Chicago, will give a speech titled "Empowerment for the Next Decade - Empowerment through Education," and Eastside High School senior Kendra Grimes will be awarded the 2006 Edna M. Hart Keeper of the Dream Award.
When: 6 p.m. Sunday Where: Paramount Resort and Conference Center, 2900 SW 13th St.
Cost: $40 (tickets will not be available at the door) For more information: Call Hart-Williams at 376-2442 or 264-6956

Picking Jackie Hart-Williams as the newest member of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hall of Fame wasn't a tough decision. In fact, Rodney Long classified as so easy, it was a "no brainer."
Long is president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida, an organization he helped found in 1985. It's the organization that has planned the city's annual King holiday celebration and sponsors the annual hall of fame banquet. And, since its founding, Hart-Williams has worked tirelessly to make it all happen.
"She was there every day from day one," Long says.
Now the person who has helped coordinate the hall-of-fame banquet will become its 26th member.
"It's humbling, it's truly, truly humbling," she says. "I don't do what I do for recognition."
Long said Hart-Williams labored out of the spotlight. She served for more than two decades as the commission's executive director, an un-paid position that was loaded with responsibility.
"She's very meticulous," Long adds, "and she has a public-service background."
That behind-the-scenes approach to service suits Hart-Williams fine. She says she doesn't need to be the person on stage with the microphone, she's happy being the one working in the kitchen.
Her philosophy is: "If I can help somebody as I pass along the way, then my living will not be in vain," she says.
For 23 years, Hart-Williams worked as an auditor assistant with the City of Gainesville. She retired, and eight years ago crossed the street and went to work as an equal opportunity specialist with Alachua County. When helping people who believe they've faced on-the-job discrimination, she says she's often found that a good listening ear and time to vent are all that are needed.
In her office on the first floor of the Star Garage, there are two figurines standing side by side at the top of her bookcase, Martin Luther King Jr. next to Martin Luther King Sr. A framed essay, titled "The Secrets of Leadership," also includes the image of the late civil-rights leader. An image of Jessie Jackson with the motto "Keep hope alive" is next to the door. On the back wall is a framed photo of Winnie Mandela that also includes a note from the South African human rights leader.
"It keeps me motivated, it keeps me going," she says of the office décor. "It lets me know there's so much that needs to be done."
She's also surrounded by pictures of a more personal nature - husband Raymond Williams, daughters Brigette and Jaime Hart, while grandchildren Marquise Rush, Kiarah Mallory and Alexis Jackson seem to be peeking over her shoulder.
"My entire family is here," she says.
Hart-Williams is a founding member of the King Commission and continues to serve with the organization. She says initially the aim was planning the annual celebration for King's birthday. One of the earliest projects was getting U.S. 441 designated the Dr. Martin Luther King Highway in Alachua County. She says it doesn't bother her that the name isn't frequently used.
"It's a remembrance, it's a memorial," she says of the highway name.
Since those early days, the group's activity has branched out.
"Down through the years we've taken on some of the issues," she says. "We've tried to bring about his (King's) dream."
The goal now is empowerment. Last year, the commission looked at the issue of restoring the rights for those who'd been in prison. This year it will concentrate on education.
"We're trying to empower the people for self-help," she says.
Gary Kirkland can be reached at 338-3104 or kirklag@gvillesun.com.

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