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Pahokee native recounts Queen Elizabeth II's go to at Miami faculty – Palm Seashore Put up


John Williams, the former principal of Booker T. Washington Middle School with Queen Elizabeth II in this photo from 1991 in Miami, Florida.

John Williams had only a few days’ discover that the Queen of England can be visiting the center faculty the place he was principal.

Whereas the monarch’s cease on her 10-day U.S. tour totaled lower than an hour, the recollections have lasted a lifetime.

“They are saying everyone’s entitled to fifteen minutes of fame of their life. Nicely, I had 45 minutes of fame,” Williams stated Friday.

Williams recounted that day 31 years in the past following Queen Elizabeth II’s dying on Thursday.

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“I used to be saddened by the passing of the queen. All of us are going to go ultimately, however she was a beautiful, thrilling particular person. An thrilling chief. It meant quite a bit to not simply the UK, not simply Britain, the Commonwealth, however to the world,” he stated.

The 1991 journey can be the queen’s ninth go to to the USA, however her first to Florida. She arrived along with her husband, the late Prince Philip, in Miami by aircraft on a Friday afternoon in Could. The motorcade then shuttled her to Booker T. Washington Center Faculty in Overtown. 

Williams, a Pahokee native, had been principal for nearly three years. He wasn’t positive on the time why his faculty was chosen, however he was elated nonetheless.

John H. Williams, former principal of Booker T. Washington Middle School in Miami-Dade County. Photo provided by John H. Williams.

Booker T. Washington initially was the primary Miami-Dade County highschool open to Black college students again within the Twenties. It turned a center faculty within the Nineteen Sixties when the county desegregated colleges.

Williams attended an all-Black faculty rising up: East Lake Excessive Faculty in Palm Seashore County, the place he was senior class president.

“The concept that a Black particular person (from the) poor nation would come up in such (a manner) that the queen would go to his faculty is type of wonderful,” he stated.

Main as much as the queen’s go to, hallways obtained a recent coat of paint, new sod was laid out and a crimson carpet was readied for the grand entrance, based on information studies on the time.

Williams wore a darkish grey swimsuit jacket, blue tie and a particular pin that signified he may method the queen. The then-65-year-old monarch wore a blue floral gown with an identical boater hat, white gloves and strings of pearls.

The queen witnessed a 10-minute efficiency by the college’s 135-member marching band, which performed high-energy common hits reminiscent of Johnny Gill’s “Rub You the Proper Manner” and C+C Music Manufacturing facility’s “Gonna Make You Sweat,” in addition to the patriotic “Rule Britannia” and “Oh Completely happy Day,” based on information studies.

She additionally watched a whirlwind 18-minute pageant referred to as Magic Metropolis, which lined the historical past of Miami. The queen sat between Williams and then-county Mayor Steve Clark. 

Williams stated he was nervous earlier than her go to, however that talking to her melted away any nervousness.

“She’s a superb conversationalist. She was capable of take a standard particular person, a commoner like me, and make me really feel comfortable. There was no rigidity, and I really feel that was her communication expertise,” he stated.

With three many years having handed, Williams stated he didn’t bear in mind the whole lot he and the queen spoke about, however her calm and commanding presence left an impression.

One factor she stated that took him abruptly was how she seen her royal function.

“She noticed being queen as a job. Similar to I might go to my job as principal, she went to do her job being queen, however she was truly queen 24/7,” he stated. 

Williams and the queen walked the campus, with Prince Philip, the college’s superintendent and the county mayor simply behind.

“For the remainder of the day, everyone was excited. It was exhausting to get the children calmed down after that,” he stated.

Later that day, Williams and his spouse had been invited to a reception on the queen’s 412-foot royal yacht Britannia. Williams stated he shook fingers with three former presidents: Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. Additionally in attendance had been then-Gov. Lawton Chiles, U.S. Sens. Bob Graham and Connie Mack, and Jeb Bush, based on a report from United Press Worldwide.

On the time, Williams did not look after the style of fish, however after making an attempt salmon on the queen’s yacht, he fell in love with it, he stated. He and his spouse left earlier than the dinner meant “for the actual dignitaries,” he stated.

The queen would go away Miami that night time for a cruise across the Florida Keys earlier than heading to Tampa on the subsequent cease of her U.S. tour. There, she gave Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf an honorary knighthood, who headed Central Command and had led the primary Gulf Battle marketing campaign to oust invading Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Hannah Morse covers client points for The Palm Seashore Put up. Drop a line at [email protected], name 561-820-4833 or observe her on Twitter @mannahhorse.


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