Lessie Sims Williams gathers with family, friends and former students for a birthday celebration.
Lessie Sims Williams gathers with family, friends and former students for a birthday celebration.
Lessie Sims Williams was the Choir Director at Rogers High School from 1967 until 1972.  After leaving Mississippi, she moved to Portland, Oregon where she taught music in the schools a performed with the Portland Symphony and became Minister of Music for several churches in Portland.  

Lessie wanted to celebrate her 70th birthday in the city and said that gave her her foundation and beginning.  She returned to Jackson and Canton for the celebration.

To celebrate this milestone Birthday on February 25, many of her former choir students, faculty and staff from Rogers and her former principal gathered at Nichols Middle School (formerly Rogers High School) for a surprise birthday tribute and celebration.  

The former choir members held two rehearsals and were ready to provide musical tributes to their beloved Choir Director.

She was, indeed, surprised when she arrived to see familiar faces.  She was in tears and said she was going to have 'Shock Therapy" when she returned to Portland.

Those who paid tribute included the internationally renowned, Stellar Award Recipient, Harvey Watkins, Jr. on the Canton Spirituals.  

He mentioned during the tribute that he wanted to play an instrument and not sing, but Williams encouraged him to sing.

Superintendent Cassandra Williams presented a certificate of recognition and appreciation to Williams for her work with students in music and choral performance.

Former Principal Leslie Johnson, former students John Fleming and Elverse Alexander gave tributes.  Her daughter, Lori Brooks and her husband and daughter of Dallas, Texas came to be a part of the celebration.

Four of Lessie's sisters and brothers (Juanita Sims Doty, Georgia Sims, Rev. James C. Sims and Casaundra McCullough) were on hand for the celebration and, in fact, helped to plan the surprise.

Her cousins, the Wales Family, also attended with two cousins coming from Baton Rouge and New Orleans to be part of the celebration. Her Cousin Yvonne Anderson Tate also helped to plan this surprise with Class of 69 member Evelyn Rose Jackson serving as the caterer.

Billy Joe Wells, a former choir student, directed the 25+ member choir and Randolph Watson (Rogers Choir Director from 1979-1998) served as the musical director and accompanist.