Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Brown V. Board Superintendent Attracted by Site's Civil Rights History

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Brown V. Board Superintendent Attracted by Site's Civil Rights History

Article excerpt

Sherda Williams, the daughter of an engineer who worked for Firestone and other tire companies, lived in several states when she was growing up -- Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, California and Indiana. But she had stepped foot in only two national parks before she was hired by the National Park Service in 1992.

Williams was finishing a master's degree in landscape architecture, with a specialization in historic landscape preservation, at Ball State University at the time the NPS was becoming more interested in that field.

"I felt like I was in the right place at the right time," she said. "I got my master's and the job offer on the same day. It was a nice nexus."

Williams, a native of Berkeley, Calif., began her duties as the new superintendent of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site on Jan. 20.

The site commemorates the 1954 Supreme Court decision that ended the concept of separate-but-equal school segregation in the United States.

She replaces David Smith, who left the position at the Brown v. Board site in September to become supervisor of the Joshua Tree National Park in California. Smith had served as superintendent of the Topeka site since July 2011.

Williams earned a bachelor's degree in forest management in 1976 from Purdue University in Indiana. She worked as a land-management forester for International Paper Company in southern Arkansas for 10 years before entering Ball State University to earn a master's degree.

Her first job with the National Park Service was at its Midwest regional office in Omaha, Neb., where she worked for 11 years as a historical landscape architect assisting parks in the region with planning and preservation projects.

"I decided I wanted to work in the field," she said, explaining how the NPS selected her to be superintendent at the Nicodemus National Historic Site in northwest Kansas.

Williams, who started her job at the Nicodemus site in January 2004, had been part of the NPS team which earlier had developed its general management plan. The site's mission is to preserve the history of Nicodemus, founded in 1877 as the first permanent black settlement in Kansas.

Williams said she was inspired by the story of Nicodemus and realized its continued importance after meeting a resident whose family members had been freed slaves. …

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