05/01/05 — James Sprunt names building after former commissioner

View Archive

James Sprunt names building after former commissioner

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on May 1, 2005 2:01 AM

KENANSVILLE -- James Sprunt Community College dedicated its newly finished technology center Thursday in honor of a former county commissioner and college trustee.

Zettie B. Williams also has served as a member of the East Pointe Mental Health and Duplin General Hospital boards.

More than 300 people attended the dedication ceremony in front of the new $1.8 million classroom and office building, which was financed through educational bond funds. Inside the new building named in her honor will hang a portrait of Ms. Williams, which was unveiled during the ceremony.

State Rep. Russell Tucker read a resolution of congratulations from House Speaker Jim Black and Gov. Mike Easley also sent a greeting, conferring on Ms. Williams the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Several people spoke about their love for Ms. Williams, a native of Kenansville and a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

She has drive, they said. Kenansville Mayor Pro Tem William Fennell said she used to call him and say, "Fennell, we can do this."

"She'd want to do the impossible things."

One of her friends, Suvella Hill, who went with her to the university in Greensboro, praised Ms. Williams's "irresistible spirit and powerful dedication. My son told me one day, 'Ms. Zettie's in the paper.' I said, 'What page?' He said, 'Every page.'"

Ms. Williams holds a bachelor's degree in English and social studies and a master's degree from New York University. She also studied at Hampton University, East Carolina University, Fayetteville State University and completed an international study tour of 11 countries.

As an educator, Mrs. Williams dedicated 40 years to the Duplin County Public School System.

Economic Development Director Woody Brinson said his daughter, Karen, was student in Ms. Williams' class at E.E. Smith Junior High, he said, as did his entire family. Brinson said he still claims her as a relative.

Thomasine Kennedy from East Pointe said Ms. Williams is a catalyst for change, an advocate for doing the right thing. "No matter where she is she represents us all very well -- our own Ms. Duplin County, Zettie B. Williams."

Helen Rogers of Mizpah Court 79 said she was happy to hear the building would be named after Ms. Williams, who was at one time the Mizpah Court's Illustrious Commandress.

"She had an incredible ability to stimulate people to follow her lead," Rogers said.

In 1993, Ms. Williams was appointed by former Gov. Jim Hunt to the JSCC Board of Trustees, where she has served as chairman for eight years.

In 1989, she was the first black woman to be appointed to the Duplin General Hospital Board of Trustees. She was also the first black woman elected to the Duplin County Board of Commissioners. During this tenure, she served as chairman for three years and continues as a member.

Since 1990, she has been a member of EastPointe Mental Health Board and served as vice-chairman for two years.

In 1997, Mrs. Williams received the Duplin County Hall of Fame award for her achievements and leadership.

"If I ever find a woman like Ms Zettie, I'm getting married tomorrow," said Reginald Kenan, a member of the county Board of Education.