NewsBlack History Month


West Palm Beach native leads historically Black university

Darrell K. Williams serves as president of Hampton University
Darrell K. Williams, the president of Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia.jpg
Posted at 9:22 AM, Feb 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-29 14:52:11-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Life has come full circle for Darrell K. Williams, who left West Palm Beach to pursue his career in higher education.

In 1979, he boarded an Amtrak train downtown, headed to Hampton Institute, now Hampton University. While he's come home often over the past 40-plus years, he hasn't experienced a homecoming like this.

"Now to come back to West Palm Beach as the president of the university that this community sent me off to study at is an amazing, amazing feeling," Williams said.

Williams grew up in Pleasant City, the oldest Black community in West Palm Beach. One of eight, his mother and his church, Peaceful Zion Missionary, molded his faith. His schools were many because of desegregation. However, it taught him to adapt quickly. Williams excelled on the debate team at Twin Lakes, now Palm Beach Lakes High School. He found his footing as well on the basketball courts of Gaines Park.

"I think about all of the basketball games that we played there. All of the friendships that we developed. The competition that was second to none," Williams said.

It's that competition that has helped this retired U.S. Army three-star general catapult Hampton, a prestigious historically Black university in Virginia, to a new level since his take over almost two years ago.

Williams and college sweetheart Myra Williams, also a Hampton University alumna, recently came to South Florida to meet with other alumni, recruit and award a four-year full-ride scholarship to a student in Palm Beach County. It was one of the goals Williams set forth when he began his new job.

Hampton University President Darrell K. Williams speaks to WPTV from West Palm Beach
Hampton University President Darrell K. Williams speaks to WPTV from his hometown of West Palm Beach.

Danae Scott, a student at Dreyfoos School of the Arts, received the prized scholarship from HU. She said Hampton was on her radar, but financially was not in the cards.

"I was surprised to hear my name, because I didn't actually expect to get the scholarship," Scott said.

Her mother, a graduate of Florida A&M University, is familiar with Hampton and its reputation. She said this scholarship will help make her daughter's dreams possible. She is even more impressed that the president of the university delivered it in person.

"If you want talented kids at your school to come around and not just send somebody, but actually to be there himself, that meant a lot," Day Scott, Danea's mother, said.

Now the conductor at the helm of an HBCU, Williams said he will pull out all the stops to make sure students in his hometown have the same experiences for which he left.

"Our motto is, 'The Standard of Excellence and Education for Life,'" Williams said. "And I can't think of a better place to go for one that opens the door of opportunity and one that teaches you the values and the relationships that will be with you for the rest of your life."

Hampton University is located in Hampton, Virginia.