“Her impact…could never be put in perspective. And later, as a political and social columnist, she knew no bounds.”
– Furman Bisher
Madrid Loyd Williams was born January 16, 1911, in Aragon, Georgia to Mary Samford Loyd and Horace Cleveland Loyd who were farmers. Farming was difficult in that area and the family moved to Menlo, Georgia several years later where Mr. Loyd took a job as a traveling carpenter. After several jobs and three more children, the Loyds moved to Macon in 1923 so that Horace could work on the Bibb County Courthouse and Auditorium. Her mother took in sewing and the family rented out rooms in the house, but money was scarce.
Madrid was an excellent student, but as the oldest child, she dropped out of school and went to work to help with family expenses. She eventually trained as a secretary and worked at the law firm of Harris, Harris, Russell and Weaver in Macon where she mastered a variety of duties.
In 1934 she married Grant Williams, and in 1942 became head of the Georgia Bar Office, the predecessor of the State Bar. At that time there were 1389 members of the bar, and one of her jobs was to plan and manage their meetings. Over the years, as the size of the State Bar increased, so did Mrs. Williams’ responsibilities. Her superior organizational skills and leadership led the Bar “from one file folder, to a file cabinet,” and eventually into its own offices. Her duties included serving as Administrative Editor of the State Bar Journal, book editing, and supervising a staff that continued to grow. She was responsible for the relocation of the Bar offices from Macon to Atlanta in 1972 where the organization continued to grow. By 1976 the number of Bar members were approximately 9600.
In 1970 Mrs. Williams became one of the first three women to serve as President of the National Association of Bar Executives, after serving as secretary and then program chairman for the organization. The Association was made up of Chief Administrative Officers from each state. Mrs. Williams went on to become a member of the Board of Governors for the State Bar, and served on the Board of Continuing Legal Education and the Bar’s State Disciplinary Board. She was secretary of the Georgia Bar Foundation, as well.
Mrs. Williams retired in 1976. Bar President at that time, W. Stell Huie, described the impact Mrs. Williams had had: “No one has contributed more to the strength of the State Bar of Georgia than Madrid Williams. Her retirement will leave a void which will be impossible to fill.”
Mrs. Williams continued to serve her community in several ways after her retirement. She continued to be an active member in the Soroptimist Club, an international volunteer organization of business and professional women. She had been president of her local club, lieutenant governor and governor of the Southern Region. Later she was chairman of the American Federation of Soroptimist Clubs and was on the policy board of this group.
Mrs. Williams was an active Presbyterian, first as a founding member of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church where she was the first female Clerk of the Session and president of the Women of the Church, and then later at Vineville Presbyterian Church in Macon. There she was elected as the first woman deacon, and chairman of the Business Women’s Circle.
Gardening was one of Mrs. Williams’ great passions. It had been a calming retreat from her hectic work schedule, and it was a major pastime in her retirement. Her gardening skills parallel the impact of her life. She broke new ground for women, leaving it far more fertile than she found it, and allowing blooming where there had been none. She rose from humble beginnings and a lack of formal education to succeed in the then male dominated world of law, and accomplish great things.
The legacy of Madrid Williams will inspire young women today. In addition to breaking glass ceilings and holding positions of respect and authority, there are tangible tributes that educate us about the women who went before us. Mrs. Williams’ portrait hangs in the Bar Offices in Atlanta, reminding all that hard work, dedication and perseverance can take us farther than we might have thought. In 1994 St. Andrews Presbyterian Church dedicated its new building, housing a Montessori preschool, and they chose to name it the Madrid Williams Educational Building. “Growing Where God Has Planted Us” is their fitting memorial for an outstanding Georgia woman of achievement.