WILLIAMSON, HARVEY M. (29 Jan. 1908 - 14 Dec. 1995) was an educator and civic leader. He was born to Alice E. Williamson and John M Williamson in Shelby, Mississippi on January 29, 1908. As a child, he attended school in Shelby, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana. Williamson came to Cleveland, Ohio in 1924 and attended EAST TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL, where he was the predecessor of JESSE OWENS as the 100-yard-dash track star.

Upon graduation from high school, Williamson earned his B.A. degree, magna cum laude, and his M.A. degree from Western Reserve University. Williamson also served in the United States Army Air Corps as a U.S. Army Air Corps Staff Sergeant for three years during WORLD WAR II. He served mostly in the United States, but briefly served in the Philippine Islands near the end of the war. 

Throughout his career, he held jobs as a senior clerk for both the City of Cleveland and the Federal Housing Authority. Williamson also was the first Black man in the Ohio District to serve as a customs inspector for the United States Bureau of Customs.

In 1945, Williamson began teaching in the CLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM, and taught at both Kinsman Elementary School and Charles W. Chesnutt Elementary. He later became principal of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1962 and transferred to Longwood in 1970, retiring in 1975. 

In 1962, he joined the Western Reserve University's Board of Governors, serving for six years until the University merged with Case Institute of Technology. After the merger, he served for two years as a member of the Board of Overseers of the newly formed CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY. In 1964 he was chosen Alumnus of the Year at Cleveland College of Western Reserve University and later served as vice chairman of the College's Visiting Committee. 

Williamson served on the boards of several civic, educational, and church organizations. He was a founding member and chairman for several years of the Western Reserve Historical Society's Black History Archives Project Advisory Committee, which later became known as the African American Archives Auxiliary of the Western Reserve Historical Society. He also served terms as president of the PHILLIS WHEATLEY ASSOCIATION, the Western Reserve Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa, and the Cleveland College Alumni Association. 

He was a board member of the Congregational Union of Cleveland, the ELIZA BRYANT HOME FOR THE AGED, and the GREATER CLEVELAND NEIGHBORHOOD CENTERS ASSOCIATION. Additionally, Williamson served on committees for the Lake Erie Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, and the CITIZENS LEAGUE.

Further, Williamson was a lifetime member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE (NAACP), a member of the CITY CLUB OF CLEVELAND, the UNIVERSITY CLUB, and the Phi Society of Phi Beta Kappa.  For more than seventy years, Williamson was a member of MT. ZION CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH where he served in many capacities including chairman of the Board of Trustees, church clerk, financial secretary, historian, and chairman of the Pulpit Search Committee.

He traveled frequently and extensively in Europe and made other extended trips to Russia, Siberia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the Fiji Islands as a member of Phi Delta Kappa participating in educational seminars. Williamson was also interested in creative writing and won prizes in prose and poetry and adapted a play that had a long run at KARAMU THEATER under the name "The Wise Woman." He also contributed to "Story", "Skyline", "The Crisis", and other literary magazines. His work is also included in “American Anecdotes”, a book published by Random House, as well as “Best Short Stories of 1936.”

For more than thirty years, he was married to Katherine P. Williamson, who was the chief of the Division of Social Administration for the State of Ohio, and a well-known social worker, until her death in 1964. He was also married for seven years to Lucille Williamson who passed away in 1984. Harvey M. Williamson died in his home in 1995 and is buried at Highland Park Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.


Patrice Hamiter

Last updated: 10/4/2022

Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

Finding aid for the Harvey P. Williamson Papers, WRHS.