• Rich Klein

Elaine Williams, community activist and leader of Sullivan NAACP, Dies at 75

Updated: Sep 15



MONTICELLO - Elaine Williams, a former president and inspirational leader with the Sullivan County chapter of the NAACP for more than three decades, has died.


Antoinette Williams, one of eight children. born to the South Carolina native, said in a Facebook post:


"Everyone knows of your tireless, relentless contributions to Sullivan County. That’s a debt they could never pay. Super mom, super activist, super human. You dedicated your life to being a mother but managed to give just as much time to civil rights, the NAACP, voting rights and a garden. ...Your legacy is your children, everyone else’s children, civil rights, social justice, dogged determination and love. If my mother didn’t leave an imprint on you, then you never met her. "


In 2020, Williams was recognized by then-Senator Jen Metzger, who wrote:

"Elaine Williams has long been a fighter for justice and fairness in Sullivan County, and in the last 2+ years she has shepherded a transformational project close to home--a community garden in the affordable housing complex where she lives in Monticello. The garden was started with the help of many organizations and volunteers (especially Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development & farmer Dick Reisling), and serves as both a source of fresh, nutritious food and as a vehicle for youth empowerment, learning, and community and intergenerational connection. It's success owes a great deal to Elaine's vision and leadership, and today I presented Elaine with a Senate Commendation to recognize her efforts and her years of dedicated activism in the fight against racial injustice."


The Catholic Charities of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster, NY in April 2021 honored her as well. The organization wrote:


"During these trying times of the pandemic and increased racial tensions, Ms. Elaine Williams has continued to go out of her way to bring needed healing and fellowship to our Sullivan County community. Ms. Williams sees the value in our youth and elders alike, from all walks of life, regardless of color, ethnicity, creed, or orientation; yet, she follows her calling to continue helping people of color recognize, know, and celebrate their value and all that they have to offer within their respective communities."


In March 2021, Williams sharply criticized the Sheriff's Office process and final document on police reform at a public hearing on the issue before the County Legislature.


“There’s nothing in that report, nothing, that speaks anything toward people of color,” Williams said. “I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think it’s correct.”


Les Kristt, a lifelong Monticello resident and business owner who was honored by the Sullivan County NAACP in 1998 and in 2003, said he lost a dear friend.


"She was a wonderful person with great knowledge and wisdom." Kristt posted on Facebook this morning. "We conquered a number of challenges over the years. There will be a gaping hole in our community."


Lori James, the immediate past president of the Monticello Board of Education, said:


"I am so sad to hear about the passing of my friend Elaine Williams. She was an icon in our community and a force to be reckoned with. And when it came to the kids in our community, she was one of the strongest advocates I know. It has been my pleasure and honor to work with her over these many years striving for the best our community can be. She always told me she was my biggest fan, and I would tell her that we were a mutual admiration society. "



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