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Rev. Dr. Tallulah Fisher Williams

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary 1977

Former District Superintendent, Chicago Northwestern District, Northern Illinois Conference, The United Methodist Church

When Rev. Dr. Tallulah Fisher Williams was just 3 years old, she was upset because her local Baptist church would only let her sing children’s songs. So, when a United Methodist Church was built within walking distance of her home, she went there every day. When she was 7 years old, Rev. Williams joined the Methodist Youth Fellowship, and, at 12, became its president. Even before high school, she knew she would work in ministry.

After graduating from Harlan High School in Chicago, Rev. Williams attended North Central College in Naperville. She then received a Master of Divinity from Garrett-Evangelical and a doctorate from Chicago Theological Seminary.

Rev. Williams, Superintendent of the Chicago Northwestern District of the Northern Illinois Conference for four years, was a pacesetter among United Methodist leaders. During her ministry with United Methodist churches at St. Vincent, St. Mark, Southlawn, and Hartzell in Chicago and at Trinity Church in Mt. Prospect, she was a pioneer in many ways. She was the first woman of color to be a district superintendent of the Northern Illinois Conference, the first African-American clergywoman appointed to St. Mark, a church with a large Black congregation, and the first Black woman appointed to a predominantly white suburban church, Trinity in Mt. Prospect. Rev. Williams also preached in Mexico and Niger, and she was the first Black woman to preach in the John Wesley United Methodist Church in Paris, France.

Rev. Williams was known as an excellent preacher and was elected chair of Black Methodists for Church Renewal, giving four national keynote addresses. She was elected as a delegate to the 2000 United Methodist General Conference on the first ballot and was nominated for bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference.

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