Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS - Dr. Everett Williams, the first African-American superintendent of Orleans Parish Public Schools, who led the school system for seven years in the 1980s and 1990s, died Sunday. He was 82.

After 34 years in the Orleans Parish school system as a teacher and principal, Williams became superintendent in 1985. He vowed to tackle budget issues and improve student achievement, but observers said a teachers strike and battles with a contentious school board kept him from achieving some of the goals he set out for his administration and seeing a budget crisis grip the school system as he left office.

Supporters did credit Williams with pushing through a tough discipline policy, expanding early childhood education programs and adding magnet schools. Williams also boosted the public relations profile of the system, created a multicultural curriculum and an in-school day care for student mothers and established a superintendent's awards program to honor outstanding students.

After retiring as superintendent, Williams worked for Freeport McMoRan, as manager of community relations and later company vice president.

A New Orleans native, Williams earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Xavier University and his Ph.D. from Michigan State University. He also spent time as a seminarian before marrying and entering a career in education.

His teaching career began in 1958 as he entered the school system as a teacher and head of the English department at Walter L. Cohen Senior High. He later served as an assistant principal at McDonogh 35, principal at Carter G. Woodson Junior High, then moved into administration, as an assistant superintendent and associate superintendent before being named superintendent.

In addition to his work in local schools, Williams served many non-profit boards and community groups during his career, including UNITY for the Homeless, Bridge House, Children's Hospital and other medical and educational causes. He also chaired the education committee for the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation.

In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, he served on the Archbishop's Community Appeal as the first African-American Chairman in 1996. Additionally, he served on the board for Catholic Charities, Catholic Foundation, Our Lady of Holy Cross College, Xavier University, Notre Dame Seminary, Holy Rosary Academy and St. Joseph Seminary College.

Williams served as a deacon within the Archdiocese of New Orleans at both Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church.

In 2010, he was honored with the Pope John Paul II award from the Archdiocese's Catholic Foundation for a lifetime of service to the community. His service to the local church dates back to the 1960s, when then-Archbishop Philip Hannan asked him to consult on the desegregation of Catholic schools.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Melva, and two daughters, Melva and Eileen. He is preceded in death by a son, David.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Unity for the Homeless or Xavier University.

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