Marguerite Neel Williams Fund
Marguerite Neel was born in Thomasville, Georgia, on October 31, 1917, the youngest of four children born to Lee and Ethel Flowers Neel. She attended Thomasville’s public schools and then completed two years at Duke University. There she met Thomas Lyle Williams, Jr. of Morganfield, Kentucky. They married on April 3, 1936, and moved to Chicago, where Mr. Williams ran the family business. They had two children. After Mr. Williams retired in 1969, they returned to Thomasville.
Mrs. Williams was a member of Thomasville Landmarks and founded several groups dedicated to preservation, including the Thomasville Genealogical History and Fine Arts Library, the Thomasville Cultural Center, and on the statewide level she was a founding Trustee of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.
She spearheaded many preservation efforts in Thomasville, including the acquisition of the Lapham-Patterson House as a state-owned historic site; the installation of the highly successful Main Street program that transformed the downtown business district; the conversion of the East Side School into a community cultural center; and the rehabilitation of a circa 1915 post office as the home of the Thomasville Genealogical, History, and Fine Arts Library.
Mrs. Williams was also responsible for the establishment of many organizations that positively impact the lives of children in Thomas County, including Thomasville Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and the Thomasville Cultural Center. She also started the Thomasville Antique Show Foundation which has provided funds to programs benefitting children in Thomas County every year since the 1980s. Mrs. Williams was instrumental in establishing the Boys and Girls Club of Thomasville. The Boys and Girls Club of Thomas County board voted to name the club in her honor.
Mrs. Williams received many awards during her lifetime, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s highest honor, the Louise du Pont Crowninshield Award in 1997; Thomas County’s Woman of the Year in 1976; and an honorary Doctorate of Humanity from Florida State University in 1991. After her death the State of Georgia established the Marguerite Neel Williams Memorial Highway on a portion of Highway 195 in Thomas County.
Mrs. Williams was a longtime member of the Georgia Historical Society, having joined as a life member in 1972. She served on the Society’s Board of Curators from 1973 to 1976.
Marguerite Neel Williams died on May 11, 1999, at age 81, and is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Thomasville. Her husband Thomas died on January 24, 1978, at age 65.
Mrs. Williams was posthumously inducted as one of the first two modern Georgia Trustees by GHS and the Office of the Governor in 2008.
In 2005 the Williams Family Foundation in Thomasville established the Marguerite Neel Williams Fund at the Georgia Historical Society, ensuring that her commitment to history education will continue.