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Clara Belle Williams: New Mexico Pioneer in Education

Documentary on the life of Clara Belle Williams to air on KRWG Public Media

The life story of Clara Belle Williams, the first African American graduate of New Mexico State University will be featured in a special program airing on television from KRWG Public Media on Thursday, August 24th at 8 p.m. and rebroadcasted at 5 p.m. on Sunday, August 27th.

This half-hour documentary from KRWG Public Media features interviews with the family of Clara Belle Williams as well as others who discuss the impact she had on education. Adrian Velarde, General Manager, University Broadcasting said this special program features an inspiring story.

“Our viewers will learn about a woman ahead of her time. Despite the challenges she faced, Clara Belle Williams’ devotion to her family and the power of education is powerful lesson for us all,” Velarde said.

Education was a major part of the life of Clara Belle Williams. She was the valedictorian of Prairie View Normal and Industrial College in 1905. She taught at the college for a number of years where she ended up meeting her husband, Jasper Williams. They later moved to El Paso, Texas. In El Paso, Jasper ran a drugstore and they had three children: Jasper, James, and Charles. In 1924, the drugstore was burned down, and the couple decided to move to Vado, New Mexico where they both became teachers and later moved to Las Cruces. While living in Las Cruces, Clara Belle Williams was a teacher at Phillips Chapel and at the Booker T. Washington school.

During summers, Clara Belle Williams attended New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (Later NMSU). Despite facing discrimination, she graduated in 1937 with a bachelor’s degree in English and education. Years later the university made amends with Clara Belle Williams and her family. New Mexico State University named a street after her as well as the former English building. During her life, she was recognized for her work in education, and in 1980, she received an honorary doctorate from NMSU.

Over the past year, Christian P. Valle, KRWG Public Media Production Manager has been researching and conducting interviews on the life story of Clara Belle Williams. He shared what viewers can expect with this project.

“I think viewers can expect a deeply personal account of how a family in the borderland region, of African American descent, lived during the time of segregation and what families had to do to survive and to get educated,” Valle said.

The documentary “Clara Belle Williams: New Mexico Pioneer in Education” will air on KRWG Public Media on Thursday, August 24th at 8 pm and will be shown again on Sunday, August 27th at 5 pm. You can stream the documentary at video.krwg.org or on the PBS App which is available on most smartphones, tablets, and TV.

Christian Valle currently serves as the TV Production Manager for KRWG Public Media. His duties range from TV director, producer and editor of Newsmakers, field videographer for Community Connection and Living Here and every other production position