Wichita Falls leaders remember first black mayor and Wichita Falls icon Arthur Bea

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WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — A woman known for her servant’s heart and for being a trailblazer has died at the age of 88.

Arthur Bea Williams, a North Texas legend and one of the most well-known icons in Wichita Falls’ history, passed away early Friday morning in hospice care.

Though many knew her health was in decline, it doesn’t make this loss any easier.

“Wichita Falls has been really good to me and I hope that when I am no longer here everybody can remember me and say she has been good to Wichita Falls,” Authur Bea Williams said in an October 2019 interview.

And Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana said she did just that.

“We use the word legendary very sparingly but when you talk about Arthur Bea, you can say legendary, first black city councilwoman, first black mayor, county judge, justice of the peace, been a part of this community for a long time,” Santellana said.

88 years to be exact.

Many are grieving the loss of Arthur Bea Williams, a staple in the Wichita Falls community who many, like Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom and close family friend Reverend Angus Thompson, said has left a legacy behind like no other.

“I see a woman who was born on the east side who lived in the projects, that no one thought would amount to anything at all. She broke every barrier and she set a standard that I think will be difficult for others to match regardless of race and financial means,” Thompson said.

“She was a solid good force there, she didn’t have trouble stating her convictions, she was kind to people but yet she had an ability to firmly guide you if you needed to,” Gossom said. “Arthur Bea came to this courthouse, brought in her expertise, her personality, her commitment.”

Williams, a trailblazer, paved a way for many in the Wichita Falls community.

“I think that Arthur Bea, God bless her, she didn’t know what she was doing, she thought she was just trying just to make it out of the projects. What she did was help others see that they could get out of the projects too and live a good life,” Thompson said.

“A lot of things is being qualified and being there at the right time and seeing a door that was locked and pushing on it find out who’s behind it and walking on in if it was available,” Williams said in an October 2019 interview. “But I don’t think I ever got a job or an appointment to do a job that I couldn’t do.”

And Student Success Coordinator Maurice Jordan, who said he is a product of Arthur Bea, said the impact she made on the students at Booker T. Washington is indescribable.

She mentored there right up until the start of the pandemic last year.

“Ms. Arthur Bea would take our students from first grade, all the way up to our fifth-grade students and she would stay for hours, hours mentoring students,” Jordan said.

Just three months ago, Santellana proclaimed August Arthur Bea Williams month and October 15th was proclaimed Arthur Bea Williams Day in 2019.

“We lost a legend, that’s what we did,” Thompson said.

“You never think about yourself as a legend, that’s a pretty powerful word,” Williams said in an October 2019 interview. “I was grateful and very honored but I certainly wouldn’t have thought of myself as a legend.”

Arthur Bea suffered a stroke a year ago after which she was admitted to at-home hospice care.

Sources close to the family said she passed away at Hospice of Wichita Falls at around 12:30 Friday morning.

Services are pending at this time.

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