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Teacher Marion Williams-Gregory dead at 88; was pioneering educator

Marion Williams-Gregory, seen in an undated photo, the

Marion Williams-Gregory, seen in an undated photo, the first black tenured teacher in Suffolk, died July 22, 2016, at age 88, her family said. Her 51-year career was recognized by the Eastern Long Island Black Educators Association. Photo Credit: Gregory family

Marion Williams-Gregory, the first black tenured teacher in Suffolk County, died July 22 at the age of 88, her family said.

Williams-Gregory was born in 1928 and grew up in Brooklyn and excelled at mathematics and English as she pursued her education. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in teaching and education.

She began in the Copiague School District at the Scudder Avenue School and the Susan E. Wiley School, teaching kindergarten and second grade. She became the first black tenured teacher in Suffolk County in 1956.

Williams-Gregory had obtained her administrative certificate in 1953, but was told by the principal at the time that the district “was not ready to have a black principal,” her son, Joseph E. Gregory said. “The stories she told me growing up were that she wasn’t always welcome in the faculty area,” Joseph Gregory said. “She opted to stay in the classroom because she felt if gave her more longevity to work with generations of students.”

Williams-Gregory traveled to Europe in 1958 for the 21st International Conference Public Education and was later honored by the Eastern Long Island Black Educators Association for her 51-year career in teaching.

Williams-Gregory kept her maiden name because of her teaching career after marrying Joseph R. Gregory in 1959. They moved to Hempstead and she commuted to Copiague to teach.

“I think she always had a positive attitude, even though the staff had a different viewpoint about race,” Joseph Gregory said. “Her students’ education transcended it and parents just saw a great teacher.”

She also is survived by daughter-in-law Felicia Gomes-Gregory and two grandchildren.

A funeral was held Aug. 5 at Lisa S. Dozier Funeral Service in Brooklyn with burial at The Evergreens Cemetery there.

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