"Miss" Margaret Williams the self-proclaimed "First Lady of Orangeburg" and "Ambassador of South Carolina" passed away yesterday. If there was ever someone who was one of a kind, they broke the mold when she was born, there will never be another one like her, and it was Margaret Shecut Williams.
I had the pleasure of knowing her for many years as the mother-in-law of Judge Williams, the federal judge I worked for. She was also married to Senator Marshal Williams, a distant cousin of my husband.
One of my fondest memories was her visits to the Judge's chambers. In the lobby was the Judge's full size portrait. If "Miss" Margaret was bringing visitors with her, which she often did, she had a regular tour she narrated as she led her guests through our chambers. This was often to the dismay of the Judge as we generally got little or no notice of an upcoming "tour" and we were trying to work. When she walked in the door, she would give me that bright smile she usually had, her right hand would gracefully wave up to the Judge's portrait as she said, "This is the official portrait of the Judge painted by Robert Bruce Williams". And with that I knew the tour had begun.
She was the consummate hostess. In the fall of 1989 she was entertaining a group of Russians in her home for a week showing them her beloved state. Unfortunately that was the week hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina. Orangeburg was without electricity and water for days. Not ruffled at all, Miss Margaret carried her guests (who spoke little if any English) across the street to her son's home, gave them her nicest towels, bars of her Nieman Marcus soap, and showed them her son's pool, explaining to them to use it as a bathtub.
And she was known for her outfits, mainly her hats. If it was a dressy occasion, she always had a very nice coordinating hat. Often she dressed in a theme. It may be that of the holiday of the time, a color, or how she felt that morning when she awoke. She was always positive and I rarely remember her without a smile on her face. Even the morning after the death of her beloved Marshal, she was at her home dressed in a bright red suit (it was around Christmas) ready to greet the many visitors coming to the home to pay their respects to the Senator they so loved and admired.
Although the world will not be the same without "Miss" Margaret and I, along with many, will miss her, she lived a long life that touched many people. She reared a family whom she loved. And they in kind adored her. Every generation from her children to her great grandchildren learned lessons from her and will treasure their memories with her. There are many "Miss" Margaret stories that are being shared these days. There are very few around here who did not know her.
One day after we learned of the Judge's diagnosis of Alzheimer's, she sat in my office. For once I saw a sadness in her. She looked at me. "Ann Currie," she said. "I’ve been through a lot. And God gives us challenges. I always knew there was a chance I would bury Marshal. But it is just not right for me to bury Mary Ashley (her daughter) and Burns (her son), and now watch Karen (the Judge whom she dearly loved as a daughter) be taken away from us like this. The Bible said we would face trials but this is a lot for one woman."
I agreed with her that it was a lot but if anyone had the strength it was her. Then we talked a bit about her life and all she had done. We laughed about some of her escapades. Then she looked at me, "You know I have had a wonderful life, haven't I?"
"Yes, mam you sure have. And the rest of us have also because of you."
She just smiled, thanked me, and stood up. Her driver had arrived and it was time for her to leave. She told me she loved me and I returned the thought.
Each spring when her lovely cherry trees bloom I will think about her and her positive outlook, her unabashed love for her family, her dedication to her city and state, and her sincere desire to make the world a better place in her own way.