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Colleagues and students remember Nashville principal

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NHS Junior Jamarte Gilliam (11) helps Nashville Elementary students with a finger painting project Friday morning in memory of Principal Latito Williams. Students made three paintings of the school, and each student’s fingerprints are on the painting. One of the paintings was given to Williams’ family.

By Terrica Hendrix
News-Leader staff

On Sunday, Nov. 5, hundreds of people attended the memorial service for Latito Williams, Nashville Elementary School principal, at Scrapper Arena.

Williams, 39, died on Nov. 1 of “an apparent heart attack,” Superintendent Douglas Graham said.

He graduated from Nashville High School in 1996; from Henderson State University in 2000; and from Harding University in 2006. He was enrolled in the Education Specialist –Superintendent Track program at Arkansas State University and was looking forward to graduating from that program next month.

He was married to Krista, and they had two children together – Jordan and Gabby.

“Mr. Williams served the Nashville School District as teacher, junior high assistant principal, and the last four years as elementary principal. He was hired in 2001 and had started his 17th year for the Nashville School District. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, our students, and the entire Scrapper family,” Graham said.

Colleagues had the following comments about Williams:

Rick Rebsamen, assistant principal at Nashville Elementary:

“I just don’t understand, but I chalk it up to the good Lord must have needed someone special to look after the younger angels and who’s better than Latito Williams. We’ve lost a friend, mentor, and an up and coming educator. He would have wanted us to carry on for the future. He knew education was the key, and he’s going to be so dearly missed. It’s going to be tough, but, in doing what he would want, he would want us to get up and go; go to school, and continue on with education.”

Joy Freel, elementary school math teacher:

“I always loved telling my fifth graders I taught my boss! It blew their minds. I’ve loved Latito Williams since I taught him in fifth grade, as I love all of my students.

“When we moved back, he taught Hope Freel and was Molly Grace Freel’s vice principal at NJHS. I had the pleasure of teaching Jordan, and now I have the pleasure of teaching Gabby.

“I often jokingly called him ‘King Solomon.’ He studied. He researched. He discussed. He pondered. He was an excellent boss and friend. We both loved talking about our families and rejoiced when there were accomplishments to share.

“God richly blessed me by placing Latito in my life those many years ago. I will miss you, my friend. I already do. Prayers for Krista, Jordan, Gabby, Mrs. Phyllis, Mr. Ricky, Rick Rebsamen, and all of us who feel this huge hole that is there because we miss you.”

Deb Tackett, NJHS principal, former NHS teacher:

“Latito was a wonderful young man. He was smart, a hard worker, had a great sense of humor, a joy to work with, loved kids, enjoyed a challenge, creative and inventive. He spent a lot of time with kids that needed that extra attention.  He would encourage kids that had lots of ability, potential, or talent to set goals, and that to use excuses for not applying themselves was unacceptable. 

“Latito and I started working together in the 2006-2007 school year. He had never been an administrator and I only had a couple of years of experience myself, so we learned together.  One of the most amazing things about our relationship was in those seven years we worked together as administrators, we never had a disagreement. If he was ever mad at me, he didn’t show it and I don’t remember being upset or mad at him. We had a wonder-working relationship. He was like family. 

“Latito had a gift of dealing with people. He related to all.  He was a great communicator.  He was a ‘school person’ because he was good at what he did. He will be missed.”